Ashurst chiefs on back foot after crisis meeting

Geffen, Bromwich forced to explain laterals and junior partner ’logjam’

Simon Bromwich
Simon Bromwich

Ashurst’s senior management was forced to defend its strategy at a tense partnership meeting earlier this month, The Lawyer can reveal.

At the meeting senior partner Charlie Geffen and managing partner Simon Bromwich were obliged to account for the firm’s handling of partner exits, the recruitment of laterals and the perception that there are now fewer promotion opportunities, all of which have led to internal unrest.

It is understood that at least one senior figure approached Geffen in advance of the meeting to encourage him to tackle the issues head-on.

“There’s a lot of disquiet because there’ve been so many laterals,” said one partner, who added that the atmosphere among the partnership had been soured by the departure of several colleagues who were seen as pillars of the firm.

Another Ashurst insider told The Lawyer that the lateral recruits had created “a logjam of junior equity partners” who would find it difficult to move up to full partnership.
Bromwich said the ­meeting was “not unusual” and he and Geffen felt “it was the right time” to address the partnership. However, many believe the meeting was called to lance the boil of discontent.

“It may have coincided with something already scheduled, but this was a special meeting,” said the insider. “They wouldn’t ­normally be talking about strategy in this way.
“People are p*ssed off about what’s been going on and at least one partner went to him [Geffen] to tell him he had to talk about the problems.”

Bromwich conceded that these issues were raised at the meeting. “Two of the things we did talk about were communication and what’s happening with ­laterals,” he confirmed.

Ashurst has made a ­number of lateral hires in recent months, including those of RBS restructuring head Lee Doyle, Centrica general counsel Peter Roberts and former White & Case partner Dan ­Hamilton.

Meanwhile, several well-regarded partners, including restructuring chief Nick Angel, finance partner Nick Avery and most recently ­corporate partner Andrew Edge, have left the firm.

“The sharing atmosphere’s gone,” said another source close to the firm.

“It’s a really unhappy place. No one speaks out, because if you do they’ll just clobber you on income. If you don’t get on with Charlie or Simon you can go up and down [the equity] like it’s snakes and ladders.”

Bromwich said: “Whatever anyone may say about a cultural change, this is still a very different place to most firms.”