Ashurst streamlines US strategy with six-firm list

Ashurst has redefined its US strategy by establishing a six-firm referral network that will operate independently of the firm’s own US offices.

Previously the firm worked with a much larger number of firms on US matters. The firm launched in the US earlier this year with a structured finance team from long-term ally McKee Nelson (The Lawyer, 24 February). Ashurst has now drawn up the six-strong list and made a small number of people responsible for the relationships. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Davis Polk & Wardwell, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, Ropes & Gray, Schulte Roth & Zabel and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges have all been confirmed as Ashurst’s main referral firms in the US.

London partner Ed Sparrow and Madrid partner Jesus Almoguera have overall responsibility for the referral network, while all US-related deals must be recorded with Ashurst New York business development manager Hilary Becker. Although partners are encouraged to  forge relationships with other US firms, Ashurst has identified these six because they have expertise in varying practice areas.

An Ashurst partner commented: “Quinn Emanuel is an excellent litigation shop, while Schulte has a solid restructuring practice. We work closely with those firms in certain areas.” A source at Ashurst said: “We’re focusing our efforts on a number of firms. Of course that doesn’t mean we’ll not work with other firms and relationships are developing all the time. It’s designed to provide more structure.”

The firm will not work with its referral firms on structured finance issues, which will be handled by Ashurst’s own lawyers in New York and Washington DC. The firm’s US presence is led by former McKee Nelson partner Bill Gray, who works closely with the firm’s UK structured finance group, led by partner Erica Handling.

The firm intends to maintain this twinpronged approach. A former partner said: “We had a far more scattergun approach to the US before. This is a good way to focus everyone’s attention and get the partners to be much more strategic about how they work in the US.” Ashurst’s management declined to comment.