With its highly rated expertise in transport projects, Ashurst’s New York office has become a relevant piece of this firm’s global puzzle.
P3. Is it a new Star Wars robot? Or a type of projects work? Yes, wise reader, you guessed right – it’s the latter. In efficient Ashurst-speak, P3 stands for public-private partnership – the partnership that exists between a government body and a private developer when a government procures a project, but a private company develops it. Ashurst’s New York associates are pumped, primed and prepped for this sort of work – Chambers USA gives high praise to its capabilities in the P3 arena.
“…it’s a global firm, so the deals are exciting.”
But New York is just one piece of a larger puzzle. Ashurst has 26 offices around the world, but its biggest clout is in the UK and Australia, thanks to the 2013 tie-up between London-headquartered Ashurst and Australian legacy firm Blake Dawson. “Obviously in Australia Ashurst is one of the top firms,” associates said. That’s true in the UK too, where the legal press have deemed it a member of the ‘silver circle’ – a group of firms that have enough gumption to tread on the prestigious ‘magic circle’ outfits’ territory. Internationally, Chambers Global rates Ashurst’s work in projects & energy, structured finance and restructuring.
In the US, “the New York office is smaller compared to other Ashurst offices,” an associate noted, “but it’s a global firm, so the deals are exciting.” Along with projects, there’s also a banking group, which makes up about 15% of the office’s attorneys. In the past, junior associates have arrived at the firm either as laterals or via another Ashurst office – London, Tokyo, Brisbane… In the future, they’re more likely to come via the firm’s small summer program, which hires about two associates a year. And it looks the Big Apple office will soon have company, as New York managing partner Andrew Fraiser tells us: “We want to open a small office in LA and that’s something we’re in the process of doing.”
The majority of the juniors on our list were working in the transport projects practice, while a couple could be found in the firm’s global loans group. As a smaller office, “we don’t really have a work allocation system. I’ve just been reaching out to seniors and partners. If you really want to be involved on a deal, they will do everything they can.” Work for the projects team tends to be “a mix between infrastructure projects and project finance work.” There’s scope for juniors to get exposure to both, but at the time of our calls there was a bit more infrastructure work. The team works mostly for state-level departments of transport during their dealings with P3 for infrastructure and transport projects such as “highway upgrades and airport expansions.”
The purpose of a P3 setup (from the government’s perspective) is to pass as much of the risk onto the private developer. “The government pays,” associates explained, “but the idea is that the private developer manages the whole project: the construction, the operation and maintenance” over its lifespan, which is “anywhere from 15 to 50 years.” That’s right, “if you’re doing a projects deal, you’re gonna be on it for years. If you want to close deals every three days, you’re not gonna be very happy!”
“You will get a very deep experience – I know a lot about airports!”
Associates could get involved with drafting the project agreement – “the key document that goes out to the public so private parties can bid on the project. I’ve been drafting, amending and negotiating that,” one source commented. The team then evaluates the bids the client receives from private parties. “It’s fascinating to see the contracts that various private parties propose. It gives us a very good idea of the market.” Because of the longevity of the projects, associates felt that “it’s hard to get a wide experience, but you will get a very deep experience – I know a lot about airports!”
Several associates were involved when the firm represented the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in the $2.3 billion procurement of management of the new terminal at Newark Airport. During the closing on the construction of a rental car park at the airport, associates played a supporting role: “I was putting together signature pages and updating different documents to reflect changes coming in at the last minute." On this sort of deal “you’re getting a million points of feedback from other firms and local counsel and there are 50 different documents, so you’ve gotta keep track of things.” Elsewhere, associates were “reviewing documents, drafting ancillary agreements, corresponding with the client on any questions and liaising with tech and finance advisors.”
Projects clients: Citibank, Rhode Island Department of Transportation, Star Capital. Advised The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation on the Honolulu Rail Transit Project.
Global loans associates said the group is “quite prominent around the world” – Chambers Global rates its work in Australia, the UK, Germany and the Asia-Pacific region. For international transactions, the New York team is on hand for any US element: “We deal with the security agreement and the underlying US documents.” Deals may have “five or six Ashurst offices participating,” so associates really saw the “super international” side of the firm: “I was working with the team in Frankfurt or London daily.” The group acts mainly for lenders. On the financing of a dam project in New Jersey, we heard of associates “going to the client’s office for the preliminary meeting and brainstorming session.”
Associates can get stuck into drafting securities and pledge agreements, but much of the job was about keeping organized: “Looking on my desk, there are a lot of different piles of deals – there are usually five to eight deals going on at the same time. It’s easy to forget whether a document came in for this deal or that. One of the partners loves checklists – in the beginning I thought it was crazy, but I’ve come to love them as well!”
Global loans clients: NatWest, Lloyds Bank, Ulster Bank Ireland. Advised on the US financing aspects of Berenberg Bank and asset management company BlueBay’s acquisition of software company Transporeon.
Strategy & Future
Regular visits from managing partner Paul Jenkins and chairman Ben Tidswell left associates “feeling very encouraged as an office.” New York managing partner Andrew Fraiser tells us “energy and infrastructure is a real growth opportunity” for Ashurst’s US practice, “and we’re also increasing our structured finance, lending and banking platforms. Real estate is another key growth area for us in the immediate term.”
Diversity & Career Development
Associates added that “whenever the managing partners come over they’re always talking about retention.” The firm aims to have 33% of its upper management roles fulfilled by women by 2022. “They’re making a lot of progress” – of the 21 global partner promotions made in 2019, eleven were women – “so I think they’re gonna exceed their goal. Unfortunately, New York is a little low: there are only three female partners.” Bear in mind that there are nine partners in total, so this is a third of the partnership. The firm also recently partnered with Circle In, an organization that supports working parents: “There’s a focus on being able to get promoted and still managing to be a human!”
Considering their prospects beyond the firm, associates felt that “Ashurst is well known in the projects field – but the field is very small!” Even in such a niche area, this associate didn’t think they’d be disadvantaged “if I wanted to move in the next two years to a wider focus.” Equally, “the team is very good about making sure no one is getting pigeonholed.” In this vein, “a lot of people have worked in Ashurst offices around the world.” A projects associate said: “Pretty much everyone who’s senior has spent time at other offices.” The firm says overseas experience isn’t a requirement for promotion, but associates noticed “it’s definitely a trend.” Others said the firm “would rather see someone they like transfer” to another Ashurst office “than lose them to another firm.”
Hours & Compensation
This year, the firm implemented a sliding scale bonus that kicks in at 1,900 hours – associates receive 65% of a full market-rate bonus when they hit this threshold. It goes up for every 100 hours that associates bill, so they get 75% at 2,000 hours and 85% at 2,100. To get the 100% jackpot, they need to bill 2,200. “Obviously people aren’t gonna be stoked about having to bill more to get more money,” one associate said, “but it’s fair.” In addition, Ashurst’s base salary is in line with that at the big New York firms.
One associate boldly declared: “So far the hours are nothing compared to what I’ve previously done.” Projects associates typically start at 9.30am and busy days are likely to end at 8pm, which is a normal finish time in global loans – “people think international work is sexy, but the time zones can be annoying!” Projects isn’t always immune to BigLaw trappings either: “I’ve been working after midnight for the last three weeks,” one source revealed. Several interviewees, however, appreciated “a lot of flexibility to work from home.”
Associates said one of the “big selling points” of the office was its lack of rigid hierarchy. “I’ve been taken in by the group, and I don’t feel different from them just because I’m more junior.” Another told us that “sometimes one of the partners throws out some random idea, like, ‘What do you guys think about this?’” When met with a less than lukewarm response from associates, “they’re just like, ‘Ok, never mind!’”
“You have to be a little self-sufficient.”
But sources said the most important aspect of Ashurst’s New York culture came from the size of the office: “You’re gonna be in a small satellite office of a huge international firm.” A global loans associate said that meant “a great mix of having big resources and not being lost among loads of associates.” Others liked that there were “a lot of Australians and non-Americans” in the office but for now, associates noticed some drawbacks to the firm’s non-US roots: “It’s not like you can go online and watch CLEs that the firm puts on. You have to be a little self-sufficient.” In response to this, the firm says it’s committed to investing in talent coming out of American law schools as it builds on its presence in the US.
The office’s smaller size means it isn’t quite big enough “to make football or netball clubs feasible,” but “we try to get some laughs in when we can.” As well as a happy hour on a Friday, “it’s nice to catch up with everyone” at office-wide lunches every Thursday. There were more damning reviews of the office’s technology, however: “I’ve often had issues with IT and I’ll regularly be calling the UK or an Australian office” to fix it. Fortunately, the firm is rolling out a new IT system very soon, and the office is set to move into a new space in Hudson Yards (a very fancy development where the likes of Milbank are also moving in). So here’s hoping that associates can leave those tech woes behind.
Associates can bill 100 pro bono hours toward their annual hours target. The firm does a lot of work with the Iraqi Refugees Assistance Program (IRAP) – an immigration program for refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan. Sources told us that the refugees are usually translators who’ve worked with the US Army, “and now their life is at risk because they’ve helped us.” The firm tries to get them refugee status in the US. On one case, “we drafted a document that included a bunch of references from people the translator had worked with in the army.” The firm also works with Orange Sky Laundry, which is an Australian organization that provides a laundry service for homeless people.
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: 1,317
- Average per (US) attorney: 45
Interview with New York managing partner Andrew Fraiser
Chambers Associate:How would you describe Ashurst’s current market position in the US to our student readers?
Andrew Fraiser: Our coverage in the US is limited to project finance, construction, general lending, structured finance and tax. We have a small coverage, but we’re deeply skilled in those areas, and we play among the best.
CA: What do you hope the firm’s US presence will look like in five years' time?
Andrew: That’s a tough question. This is going to sound like a stock response, but the firm is very much invested in the US. Our global managing partner [Paul Jenkins] has gone on record to say that growth in the US and increasing our coverage in the US is probably our firm’s global priority number one, so it’s very much a focal point of the firm’s growth globally, which is great.
What we are very much focused on in the short and immediate term is growing in areas that are synergistic with and complementary to our strengths in other markets. Energy and infrastructure is a real growth opportunity, and we’re also increasing our structured finance, lending and banking platforms. Real estate is another key growth area for us in the immediate term.
Because we see having a presence in the US as critical to our global strategy, we are often asked if we have any plans to enter into a US combination. The firm has no current plans in this regard.
CA: There are rumors of the firm opening a California office. Can you tell us anything more about that?
Andrew: We want to open a small office in LA and that’s something we’re in the process of doing.
CA: Looking back at your career and the knowledge you've gained, what advice would you give to students who are about to enter the legal industry?
Andrew: I would advise anybody entering this industry to think about three things in no particular order. Take responsibility for your own career, pursue the things that you’re passionate about, and always strive to continue to grow your skillset.
CA: Anything to add?
Andrew: What I would mention for any graduate looking at firms is that a significant part of what we do here in the US is advising on US infrastructure projects, and it is well understood nationally that US infrastructure is broken. So for anybody that is interested in doing their bit to help fix America’s broken infrastructure, we are playing our part. I make that point because we often get a lot of inquiries from law school students about whether we’re hiring, because that fascinates them.
5 Appold Street,
Times Square Tower,
7 Times Square,
- Head office: London, UK
- Number of domestic offices: 1
- Number of international offices: 25
- Worldwide revenue: $735 million as of FY 2017-18
- Partners US: 8
- Associates US: 26
- Main recruitment contact: Nicole Lancia Nicole.Lancia@ashurst.com
- Hiring partner: Andrew Fraiser
- Recruitment website: n/a
- Diversity officer: Deborah Dalgleish
- Recruitment details
- Number of entry-level associates starting in 2019: 2
- Clerking policy: No
- Number of summers joining/anticipated 2019: 2Ls (1)
- Number of summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office: NY, 1
- Summer salary 2019
- 2Ls: $29,230.8 $3653.85/week * prorated first year associates salary
- Split summers offered? No
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work:
• Ashurst Advance
• Banking & Finance (US)
• Capital Markets
• Competition & Antitrust
• Corporate and M&A
• Digital Economy
• Dispute Resolution
• Financial Regulation
• Insurance & Reinsurance
• Intellectual Property
• Investment Funds
• Projects (US)
• Real Estate
• Restructuring, Insolvency & Special Situations
• Tax (US)
As a global law firm with a rich history spanning almost 200 years, we've built a reputation for providing exceptional standards of service and established ourselves as a leading adviser to local and global corporates, financial institutions and governments, on all areas of law including finance, M&A, disputes and competition. With offices across the world’s leading financial and resource centers in Europe, Asia-Pacific, Middle East and the U.S. and over 1,600 lawyers working across 10 different time zones, we are able to respond to our clients' needs wherever and whenever they need us.
Recruitment outside OCIs:
Ashurst participates in resume collects at certain Tri-state area law schools, including but not limited to Columbia Law School, NYU School of Law, Fordham School of Law, Brooklyn Law School and Cardozo School of Law.
Summer associate profile:
In the U.S., we have over 30 attorneys with practices that focus on Energy and Infrastructure, Banking, Structured Finance and Products, Financial Regulatory and Tax. As a summer associate, you will be exposed to multiple practice areas during your summer program, including, but not limited to Energy and Infrastructure and Banking. We are looking for enthusiastic candidates who are eager to learn and grow with our U.S. practice and offer competitive salary. This position is open to 2L students.
Summer program components:
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. Our summer associates will also have exposure to both U.S. and global deals and partners.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
USA - Nationwide
- Projects: PPP (Band 2)