Banking on itHow’s this for an understatement – it’s a curious time to be launching a structured finance practice in New York.

Work flow is dead. Structured finance lawyers have been laid off left, right and centre. Manhattan is reeling.

These minor details are, apparently, irrelevant. At least to Ashurst. The silver circle firm is poised to make the bold and arguably bizarre move of launching a structured finance practice in New York and Washington DC after hiring an 11-partner team from struggling US firm McKee Nelson.

While many in London and Manhattan say they are bewildered by the move, Ashurst is clearly confident it’s worth it.

“It’s not just structured finance,” says an Ashurst partner. “These guys are advising on a number of workouts but also have derivative and municipal bond capabilities.”

The deal should also give Ashurst access to some (still) rather significant banking clients, including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and whatever remains of Merrill Lynch.

But whichever way you cut it, the collapse of the majority of structured finance markets means this team is likely to struggle during the downturn, whether it’s at McKee, Ashurst or any other firm.

There is potential, but potential might not be enough to ensure Ashurst’s bold new venture makes it through a protracted economic crisis intact.