Ashurst chief faces comedy ‘roast’ at partnership conference

Ashurst’s partner conference in Paris took a surprise turn last week when a German partner made an impromptu speech comically maligning the firm’s leadership and later reiterated his comments in an email to colleagues.

Charlie Geffen
Charlie Geffen

It is thought the outburst at the communal dinner last Friday night (1 March) was intended as a joke but was taken seriously by some partners, who incorrectly saw it as a genuine attack on senior partner Charlie Geffen and the way the firm is being run.

Partners were shocked by the antics of the partner, who took the microphone uninvited and started making public criticisms of Geffen and the firm’s leaders in an after-dinner speech style, a prank said to be a standard feature of German partner conferences. It is understood the partner does this at many similar partner retreats.

An insider said that the lawyer circulated the transcript to partners because of poor acoustics and was walking around while speaking, meaning much of the room could not hear him.

A source close to the firm said: “I think it was a ‘roast’ type of thing – it was meant to be funny, but it went on. It was a p***take. It completely backfired. It didn’t go down well – the way it was timed. It was a joke that never took off.”

Other sources echoed that it was a comic act that was mistakenly taken seriously by some partners.

It is also understood an email was sent round by a partner several years ago criticising its strategy.

Separately, last week’s Paris retreat also saw a timetable circulated in relation to the firm’s financial integration with the legacy Blake Dawson arm in Australia, with a full merger planned for early next year subject to a partner vote.