Ashurst - The Inside View

This UK firm’s two US coastal offices pack a mighty punch in the world of public-private partnerships.

How do we all stay connected with others? Traveling on roads and between airports? Talking on the phone? Or on social media, rolling our eyes at a conspiracy theory our friend has just shared? A common thread through all this communication and travel is projects, and many are funded through public-private partnerships (PPP or P3 to their friends). Ashurst have carved quite the reputation in this area, working with government agencies and local public authorities as well as project sponsors and lenders. “We’re the market leader in PPP projects in the transportation and infrastructure spaces,” juniors declared. “This is a small firm in America, but our projects practice is really strong.”

Ashurst is a small player in the US with just two domestic offices: the original in New York,and Los Angeles which opened in 2020. Look globally and you’ll realize this is far from a boutique: US attorneys have the “ability to leverage international resources” from Ashurst’s 28 offices worldwide. “Lots of matters come out of our international bases; we’ll be handling the US side of the deal,” a junior confirmed. For the handful of associates that join Ashurst in the US each year, projects and projects finance is the name of the game: it’s in these that the firm scores its sole Chambers USA ranking. “If you don’t know what you want and are looking for a broad experience with wide exposure in a large law firm setting, Ashurst is not for you,” sources confirmed. “It’s the right place if you have a specific desire to be doing top-level, market-leading projects work.”

TOP READ: Becoming a PPP lawyer, with Ashurst

Strategy & Future



Recent partner hires have helped the firm “go from strength to strength” in the US. The hiring of Betty Cerini and Andrés Arnaldos in New York have boosted the Latin America projects and projects financing teams. “Social infrastructure projects are on the rise,” one source offered. “There’s also been an increased focus on renewables” as well as more Latin American projects. Juniors who suggested the firm is “diversifying” also mentioned a shift from working with government clients to more on the sponsor side: “I can see us representing sponsors more often on deals going forward.”

“Social infrastructure projects are on the rise; there’s also been an increased focus on renewables.”

The Work



Ashurst recruits into both its US offices. New to the party, Los Angeles opened with a focus on projects and finance work in the transport and social infrastructure sectors. “We worked on projects in Hawaii and LA,” one source said, “so we opened here for proximity and convenience and since then it’s taken off. We have a commitment to expand and establish ourselves on the West Coast.”New York welcomes most incoming juniors each year, offering broader work streams for clients in banking, project finance, tax and securities. “Associates only do banking or projects work,” one source clarified.

The firm’s PPP team works for government agencies and local public authorities as well as private sector funds, sponsors and lenders. “Working through procurement and delivery for government bodies lasts for years,” a newbie told us. “You advise them through the entire project; sponsor-side work is a lot faster-paced.” The latter is a growing area for the firm, as is financing for M&A deals with infrastructure assets attached.Sources had predominantly worked on transportation and social infrastructure projects – “from airport terminals to high-speed rails” – often involving state and government bodies. “I was involved in the largest road deal in the country, the Managed Lanes project in Maryland,” one junior beamed.

“You have something tangible to work toward.”

Projects work tends to be “quite complex,” with infrastructure being “procured over a number of years. The type of work you’re doing as a junior is fixed.” For our sources that included attending client calls, drafting “bits and pieces” of procurement documents and updating those documents for evolving developments by “inputting comments from clients or financial and technical advisers.” It all builds to the creation of something very real: “I really like projects work as you have something tangible you’re working toward,” an interviewee reflected. “You get to see things being built, which is exciting.”

Projects clients: Honolulu Authority, LA Metro, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Advised the City of Los Angeles on the $1.2 billion PPP to develop the former Parker Center for the LAPD.

“I’m 100% affiliated with the wider network,” associate sources in global loans told us. “So many deals are led by London, Germany or Australia.” Juniors handled the US end, working on security components for large lending matters. Ashurst mainly acts lender-side for banks “handling loan, pledge and securities agreements,” but does borrower-side work too. “That’s mainly for projects loans, but not exclusively so.” Juniors found “there’s much better allocation of work due to our small size. I work with mainly one partner and never hesitate to ask a question – they never hesitate to repeat the answers!” Sources “tracked the progress of documents as a first year”; worked on board resolutions and office certificates as borrower’s counsel; created checklists; and drafted securities and pledge agreements, “with partner review of course!”

Global loans (banking) clients: Lender clients include Barclays, HSBC, ING, Lloyds, NatWest, ScotiaBank, Santander, National Australia Bank and ANZ.  Borrower clients include McLaren, AVEVA Group, Halma and Standard Motor Products.  Advised ANZ, SMBC and Shinhan Bank on a $450 million syndicated green loan to SK Battery America, and ING on a $65 million revolving loan facility to healthcare private equity firm Quadria Capital, the world’s first sustainability performance-linked fund financing.

Career Development



The summer program is relatively new, and juniors told us that because the firm’s been “trying to grow and deepen its reputation, they have historically preferred lawyers coming in with experience and training.” Sources had noticed a shift: “They’ve recently hired someone who tracks CLE requirements, and I know where to go if I want to develop.” With a combination of training sessions, performance reviews and regular check-ins with supervisors, “the resources are there if you want them.” Explaining that “there is a focus on retention if you’re dedicated and want to stick it out, and the firm wants to see us grow,” associates did have some lingering uncertainty “because we’ve had no one from New York start in their first year and go on to become partner here. It’s hard to say what the route is.” Relocating to another office in a more senior role is one option on offer.

Hours & Compensation



Billable hours: 2,000 minimum

“A busy period would be working 50 to 60 hours in a week,” one source told us. Another countered that “a busy week would be working past dinner every night, finishing at 1am, and then working four to six hours at the weekend.” Yikes. On the plus side, procurement work is more “predictable” than some practices as “deliverables are laid out in advance, so you know when big deadlines are coming.” New Ashurst juniors should prepare for time zone juggling: “Singapore starts up at 8pm our time,” one New York source explained. “You have to stay awake to make sure they are set up and can take advantage of their day.”

“You know when big deadlines are coming.”

Juniors have to hit 2,000 hours to be bonus-eligible; 100 of which can be pro bono work, with another 52 dedicated to 'knowledge and expertise' work. “Ashurst changed the bonus structure last year, so instead of a sliding scale you now have to hit 2,000 hours for a full bonus subject to discretionary performance,” insiders explained. While some told us “associates are happy with the change,” the lawyerly clause about ‘discretion’ caused pause for thought. “There was more certainty with the old structure,” one source felt. They and others agreed that they’re “compensated fairly,” at least.

Ashurst is the new kid on the US legal scene, but it's already made our Top 50 for Quality of Life>

Pro Bono



“There is definitely a genuine commitment to pro bono here,” a happy junior told us. “We can work on whichever projects interest us.” Associates are able to bring in their own clients or pick them up from partners coordinating the practice across both offices via email. The firm works with large bodies like the International Refugee Assistance Project as well as local organizations. Our sources had worked with Urban Justice, “representing domestic violence victims in family court proceedings.” According to one, “juniors can work on whatever they’re comfortable with, from corporate charity to employment disputes.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all (US) attorneys: 1,200
  • Average per (US) attorney: 33

Culture



Speaking from the new Los Angeles office, one source found the culture “to be really strong and supportive. People are building up one another’s careers and I appreciated that there’s not a hierarchy.” In New York as well we heard that “juniors work really closely with colleagues in the years above, which brings a tightness between different levels. I think that’s quite rare – the smaller office size contributes to the collegiality.” The million-dollar question: how do you maintain such a culture when a firm is growing quickly? “The culture is firmly rooted across Ashurst,” associates suggested. “There’s a distinct blend of a relaxed office setting along with high expectations and client demands.” Sounds like a tricky balance to strike! Looking beyond their small home base to the international network, one Ashurst-er reckoned “the homogenous quality is we’re all kind to each other; people are so empathetic and personable.”

“Juniors work really closely with colleagues in the years above, which brings a tightness between different levels.”

International retreats reinforce the cultural glue between attorneys, as do US-specific events. “Every Wednesday, everyone in the office shares a catered lunch together,” New Yorkers said. They also celebrated “workshops with games and team building sessions,” as well as informal social moments like happy hours or grabbing coffee with their colleagues. COVID-19 of course put a stop to such frivolities, but we hope to report on renewed mingling soon!

Diversity & Inclusion



Sources were quick to celebrate Ashurst’s increasing gender parity: at the last count, 59% of the qualified projects team were female.Noting that “there’s always been an emphasis on gender diversity,” interviewees identified the need for a greater push on ethnic diversity. “We have initiatives, take note of Black History Month and raise awareness of cultural, social and political issues,” they said, “but our recruitment is often targeted toward certain types of people.” As the firm grows its class sizes, sources were optimistic for increasing diversity given Ashurst’s penchant for international work. “You’re regularly working with colleagues from across the world, so you have to be aware and knowledgeable of global issues,” they explained.

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 29

Interviewees outside OCI: N/A

Ashurst does not participate in OCIs and instead takes direct applications for their summer associate program through a resume collection at various law schools. Applicants undergo an initial phone interview, which determines whether they get through to the next round.

Callbacks

Applicants invited to second stage interview: 17

Callback interviews are conducted by the firm’s recruiting committee, which is a group of eight to ten partners, counsel and associates. Candidates interview with various members of the committee on the day, including several 30-minute one-on-one interviews and a group lunch with two or three associates. This year, all callback interviews were conducted virtually. 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 are around candidate's interest in the firm and whether they would be a good 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 and interviewers before in order to ask thoughtful questions..”  executive director for the Americas, Nicole Lancia

Summer program

Offers: 3

Acceptances: 2

For 2021, the summer associate program will be virtual. Ashurst hopes to resume an in person summer associate program in 2022.

Lancia tells us that the firm strives to provide a “comprehensive and realistic experience during our summer program so that summer associates can feel 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 junior associates end up in the practice area that they “matched with the best” during their time at the firm, which is most often either global loans or projects.

Top tips for this stage:

“Get to know the team, be proactive and ask for guidance if you're unsure.” – executive director of the Americas, Nicole Lancia

 

Ashurst

London Fruit & Wool Exchange,
1 Duval Square,
London,
E1 6PW
Website www.ashurst.com

55 Hudson Yards,
18th Floor,
New York,
NY 10001

  • Head office: London, UK
  • Number of domestic offices: 2
  • Number of international offices: 26
  • Worldwide revenue: £641 million
  • Partners (US): 11
  • Associates (US): 22
  • Contacts 
  • Main recruitment contact: Alexandra Pecora ushrrecruiting@ashurst.com
  • Recruitment website: www.ashurst.com
  • Diversity officer: Matthew Tague
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 1
  • Clerking policy: No
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 1
  • Summer salary 2020: $190,000
  • Split summers offered? No
  • Can summers spend time in overseas office? N/A

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.

Firm profile
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.

Recruitment
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2021:
We recruit for Summer Associate positions through a resume collect. We post jobs at Columbia, NYU, Fordham 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 and Global Loans. 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.

Social Media:
Website:
www.ashurst.com
Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/company/ashurst

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Projects: PPP (Band 1)