Ashurst plans more Oz transfers as Korea launch put on shelf

Ashurst is considering sending more partners to its Australian offices for rolling periods of up to six months.

The firm’s Australian arm – known as Ashurst Australia – is planning to take on further partners from the firm’s UK-based LLP in the mould of transport and infrastructure lawyer Lee McDonald and finance expert Doo-Soon Choi, who have been in Sydney since early 2012 (5 December 2011).

The number transferring is expected to be small, with the potential secondments coming alongside the firm’s plans to send partners from the Australian bases to Hong Kong on a similar basis.

Ashurst Australia managing partner John Carrington told The Lawyer: “We’re looking at having a third [person] come over [from London to Australia] on a regular basis. What we’ll possibly have is partners coming over for three to six-month stints. We’re looking at a similar thing with putting Australian partners on a rotating basis in Hong Kong.”

Ashurst Australia also has one partner seconded to London in the form of energy and resources specialist Martin Kudnig, with the swap coming amid the launch of the non-financial tie-up between the City outfit and Australia’s Blake Dawson in March 2012 (26 September 2011).

The firms are aiming towards full financial integration this year, after initially saying they would combine by 2014. The pair are also currently working out the transfer of Australian partners from legacy Blakes’ merit-based partner remuneration system onto the UK firm’s modified lockstep, which runs from 25 to 65 points.

Carrington said the firms were making fast progress with integration and alignment of profit figures, commenting: “We thought it was always going to take a great deal of time. There’s no particular reason behind this trying to bring it forward, it’s just that it’s going well. We’re almost day-by-day working as one firm. I couldn’t say whether we’ll do it by your autumn, but we’re pushing hard.”

No date has been set yet for a vote on the financial union, with is likely to require a 75 per cent majority from Australian partners.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Ashurst has still not applied for a licence to open in South Korea after previously planning a faster timescale for its Soeul launch.

The firm was originally intending to seek approval last year but turned its attentions to the higher priority of Beijing, for which it clinched a licence last week (20 March 2013).

Ashurst Asia managing partner Geoffrey Green said: “We haven’t applied yet. We’ve been really concentrating on integration and Beijing. It’s on the list. It’s just when we get round [to it]. It’s just one of our strategic aims. We had our [Beijing] application in some time ago and now we’ve got it. We’ll just deal with one thing at a time, and our Korean business remains very strong.”