Have you got a passion for projects? Well look no further. This British import has all the right infrastructure to support any budding lawyer.
They say that with age comes wisdom, and that is certainly true for global go-getter Ashurst. Though a relative newbie to the US legal market, the firm has well-earned its stripes across the pond, having been established in London over 200 years ago. To put that into context, Abraham Lincoln was in the 6th grade when the firm was established. Its longevity is all thanks to its global ties, cemented by the full integration with Australian firm Blake Dawson some ten years ago. It is also a result of its work in transactions, disputes and projects. But when it comes to its US operations, there is one word you need to know: Projects. More specifically, Public Private Partnerships.
“If you tell someone you’re a NYC lawyer at a big firm, they think you’re doing stressful deals with big documents, but it’s the opposite of my work”.
Cutting the jargon, Public Private Partnerships, otherwise known as PPP or 3P, is a method of infrastructure development. A classic example would be the building of a new toll road, but it goes far beyond this. Think of high-speed fibre internet and new schools or university campuses, it’s quite likely these have been procured through PPP. What’s more, Ashurst offers a full service when it comes to advising on these agreements. With extensive experience advising both governments and lenders on the opposite side of a deal, combining both project finance and public finance work. So, it’s no mystery as to their success in this practice area, which is deservedly backed up with a band 1 rating nationwide in Chambers USA.
With three offices nationwide, the bulk of summers are placed in the New York office, the nucleus of its US operations. The three-year-old LA office provides transport and infrastructure support on the projects side, while a newly opened Austin office adds further support in finance and investment in the transport and water sectors. Located in the swanky Hudson Yards area, the NYC branch offers a unique experience. One source told us that “if you tell someone you’re a NYC lawyer at a big firm, they think you’re doing stressful deals with big documents, but it’s the opposite of my work.”
Juniors emphasized the flexibility with practice areas you can work in. For example, one associate told us, “as a first year I did global allowance work, then moved on to projects deals. It’s nice to experience different sides of the firm,” especially as newbies get to learn important skills from both slower and faster paced work. A particular highlight was the freedom at the end of the year to decide which practice area they wanted to end up in, “they don’t force you into an area just because it’s where they need the most help.”
Projectsis, unsurprisingly, the largest group at the firm – “the default for summer associates is to work in projects.” Thework in this group boils down to advising governments on buying up infrastructure, and how the projects raise money through lenders and sponsors. The projects team works on a variety of infrastructure deals, representing the government side of giant contracts for highways, airports, railroads, ports – you name it, and this bunch have probably worked on it. As well as transport matters, the team handles projects that flow in from the energy and resources, social infrastructure, sports, and telecommunications sectors.
One associate described the work here as “less legal-y" than you might expect; there’s a lot more consultancy involved compared to other practices, such as advising governments on getting the most out of a private company. Insiders also explained that matters are more of a marathon than a sprint, with some projects taking years to complete. Typical tasks of a first year include precedent research, cross references and doc review: “There’s a good amount of research to be done in the department.” We were told by one junior that they started to do more advisory work coming out of first year.
Projects & Infrastructure Clients: LA Metro, Georgia Department of Transportation, Wells Fargo – Advising Austin Transit Partnership on Project Connect in Austin, a transit expansion plan for Central Texas.
“It’s so fast paced the partner has no choice but to give you responsibility.”
Global markets and projects might share the same office in New York, but they are in different realms when it comes to the style of work. This is a faster paced environment than projects, where tasks consist of “getting document requests from clients and having to turn them around in 24 hours.” Common tasks here involve working on structured products, a type of ready-made investment package. Associates were impressed by the responsibilities they had as a first year, “it’s so fast paced the partner has no choice but to give you responsibility.” It should be noted that this is built on a “good support system where the partner believes in entire team.” What’s more, “you get to liaise directly with clients by taking calls with them and also get a first crack of drafting documents.” We heard that clients in this department are longstanding: “We’ve been working with some for over 20 years, so there is lots of built-up equity and respect there.”
“The tasks can be very junior, but partners and associates like to give you a lot of context,” explained one interviewee when considering how their role fit into matters as a whole. Another interviewee reckoned that this is down to the size of the firm – just three join the summer program and it’s not unheard of for some hires to be the only associate in their class year. But the firm’s smaller size doesn’t mean it scrimps on the level of training, which was praised for its depth and thoroughness. There are both formal and informal mentorship opportunities at the firm and, as the offices are small, this has the advantage of being very personable. One interviewee told us: “I know my mentor really listens to me and wants what’s best for me.” Alongside mentorship, associates get regular quarterly feedback and year-end reviews. Our interviewees explained that “people are open and honest, we all want to improve” (Associates felt like the training at Ashurst set them up for the long run; according to one source the firm is “good at bringing associates up from junior to mid-level and mid-level to senior.” And, crucially, associates are were about their future at the firm, with one telling us “I can see myself working here significantly longer than I anticipated.”
“The people here are laid back individuals who don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
If there’s one word to sum up the culture at Ashurst its “camaraderie.” For one associate, Ashurst “stood out from other big NY firms as it’s so much smaller.” People are super supportive of each other at the firm; we were told that “anytime someone passes the Bar we go for drinks. The atmosphere feels welcoming and special.” Another told us: “My colleagues are my actual friends,” recalling a Halloween party they held outside of work with other associates recently. The recipe for this success? The lack of hierarchy: “The people here are laid back individuals who don’t take ourselves too seriously.” Ashurst runs an annual off-site event, which provides a chance for different practice groups to socialize. We also heard about a weekly office lunch, and a happy hour once (or twice!) a month. Recently, the firm celebrated its 200th anniversary with a party at Hudson Yards.
Associates are given a lot of autonomy over pro bono at Ashurst, “someone sends a big list every week and you can take on anything you want.” But there is also a culture of pro bono that is taken seriously by associates and partners alike. Interviewees praised the refugee and asylum case work of the firm, one of which involved working with Iranian refugees. There are also domestic violence matters and opportunities to help the homeless. The work also extends beyond regional issues; one associate highlighted a conservation project they worked on with and Indonesian office. There isn’t an upper ceiling to how much pro bono lawyers can take on, but up to 50 hours (about two days) count towards billable hour bonus.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: undisclosed
- Average per US attorney: undisclosed
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 2,000 requirement
Associates noted that the average day works out as eight billable hours a day. However, this can vary depending on the practice area. For instance, PPP is a slow burner compared to global markets. “We have a pretty good sense of what’s coming up – there aren’t many emergencies.” Another insider was relieved to find “the hours are better than I thought they’d be. They’re more manageable.” In the global markets department work is slightly more pressing and more admin is involved. This means that although hours at the beginning are said to be manageable, associates should “expect that number to rise with more responsibility.” Bonuses are dished out once lawyers hit the 2,000 billable hours target (up to 50 of which can be spent on pro bono, and another 50 on business development.) If associates reach the target, they’re paid according to the Cravath scale. If they don’t reach it, they’re paid last year’s rate.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
“We have been interviewing a lot more at historically black law schools and colleges, it’s a real initiative at the firm.”
DE&I is a big focus of recruiting at the firm. One source told us that recently “we have been interviewing a lot more at historically black law schools and colleges, it’s a real initiative at the firm.” Not only are associates diverse – with ethnic minority lawyers making up around 30% of the cohort – but the newbies we spoke to felt that the partners were too. On the gender front, of the 54 new hires the firm made in the past year, 43 were female. Though one source did concede that “we don’t do a ton in a way of D&I training,” the firm has a plethora of global diversity strands, such as its LGBTQI+ (Spectrum), women’s and disability and wellbeing (DaWN) networks. In the NY office we heard of a few events that the firm puts on, such as volunteering for LGBTQ+ facing organizations.
Strategy & Future
New York managing partner Sharon Kim reveals that “the firm’s revenue was up 12% in the previous financial year.” Across the US in general, Kim acknowledges that the looming suggestions of a recession could spell trouble for the capital market and banking practices of the firm as they tend to be aligned with economic cycles. The firm is “preparing for downturn, and we feel comfortable that our other practice areas will weather us through the challenges.” The firm very recently opened a brand new branch in Austin, as there is a long-standing strategy of “having a larger presence in the US.” In the international arena, “we are also focusing on Asia, and we have announced a joint venture in Seoul.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 65
Interviewees outside OCI: N/A
Ashurst does not participate in On Campus Recruiting and instead takes direct applications for their summer associate program through a resume collection at various law schools. Applicants undergo an initial phone screening interview, which could lead to a second round of interviews.
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 23
Callback interviews consist of five 30-minute interviews conducted by a group of attorneys representative of a cross section of practice areas and recruitment committee members. Candidates are invited to join a small group of associates for lunch following their in-office callback interviews. Last year's callback interviews were conducted virtually in light of the pandemic, and we expect to adjust our planning to suit the new normal as it unfolds in 2022. Executive Director for the Americas, Nicole Lancia, tells us that because the firm does not participate in the OCI process, questions at this stage “typically dive into candidate's interest in the firm and whether they would be a cultural fit with Ashurst.”
Top tips for this stage:
“I really liked the people I interviewed with, many of whom are still here and now colleagues of mine.’” – a junior associate
“We advise candidates to research the firm's practice areas and recent deals to best understand the US strategy." – Nicole Lancia, executive director for the Americas
For 2022, the summer associate program will be in person.
Lancia tells us that the firm strives to provide a “comprehensive and realistic experience during our summer program so that summer associates have a realistic experience and get a better sense of what it's truly like to be a junior associate at Ashurst.” Summers are paired with associate and partner mentors, who, along with a work coordination team, help assign relevant work and provide essential feedback.” There are weekly social events and trainings, and summers are encouraged to go to coffee or lunch with partners, counsel and associates. Summers returning as first year associates participate in the flexible first year where they are given the opportunity to explore practice areas outside of their primary interests.
Top tips for this stage:
“Get to know the team, be proactive and ask for guidance if you're unsure.” – Lancia
London Fruit & Wool Exchange,
1 Duval Square,
55 Hudson Yards,
Main areas of work
Our offices in New York and Los Angeles provide comprehensive legal services to US and global financial institutions and corporations.
Our US Projects team advises on all aspects of project financings in the US and coordinates closely with our offices in London, Sydney, Madrid, Paris, and Tokyo on delivery of world class market knowledge to our transactions. Our award-winning practice focuses on public-private partnerships (PPP) in all sectors including rail, road, airport, student accommodation, courthouses, water and waste and have worked on ground breaking transport and social infrastructure projects across the nation.
Our Global Loans practice is recognized by our clients within the industry to be one of the most innovative and solution orientated legal practices. We provide seamless coverage on a wide range of US and cross-border lending transactions, including leveraged and acquisition finance, corporate lending, lending to funds and lending to the insurance sector. We frequently provide advice to banks, financial institutions and funds who are themselves leading players in the market.
Our derivatives practice offers the full spectrum of transactional, advisory and documentation services for derivatives and structured products.
We have a market-leading, specialist team that advises leading investment banks and other financial institutions and covers the full spectrum of the derivatives area. Unlike many other firms, we have specialist lawyers focused on each area so our expertise encompasses all classes of OTC derivatives, repos, securities lending, repackagings, credit-linked notes and structured products. One of our great strengths is our ability to adapt and move from structuring one product to another quickly thanks to the versatility and depth of knowledge of our team. As a result, our clients are empowered to respond to changing market demands and enabled to release the most popular products in a short turnaround time.
Ashurst’s first class team of structured products attorneys offers substantial industry expertise, and provides transactional, and structuring advice to leading international banks. Our Structured Products team has extensive experience advising on all forms of structured products (including notes, warrants and certificates), together with structured bank deposits, and across all underlying asset classes and product structures.
Ashurst is an elite global law firm with over 450 partners and a further 1,400 lawyers working in 28 offices across 16 countries. Unlike many other firms, infrastructure as an industry and an asset class is central to our global strategy and practice. We offer the international insight of a global network combined with local market expertise and knowledge.
Our vision is to be the most progressive global law firm. For us, ‘progressive’ is a mindset, an approach to how we do things. We instinctively take a fresh perspective on situations, exploring whether there are better ways of delivering practical, commercial solutions to the challenges our clients face in today’s rapidly changing business landscape.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2022: We recruit for Summer Associate positions through a resume collect. We post jobs at Columbia, NYU, Fordham, Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA and other top ranked schools.
Recruitment outside OCIs: We recruit for Summer Associate positions through a resume collect.
Summer associate profile: At Ashurst, we strive to provide a stimulating and rewarding experience for our summer associates. By working on top-quality transactions, it is our goal to present a realistic picture of life as a junior associate.
Summer associates will be exposed to multiple practice areas during the summer program, including, but not limited to Projects, Global Loans, Derivatives and Structured Products. Our summer associates will also have exposure to both US and global deals and partners.
Summer program components: We are looking for enthusiastic candidates who are eager to learn and grow with our US practice and offer competitive salary. This position is open to 2L students.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023
USA - Nationwide
- Projects: PPP (Band 1)