Six partners to leave Ashurst New York amid restructuring that sees last of 10-strong McKee Nelson team exit

Six partners are set to leave Ashurst’s New York office following a restructuring of the Anglo-Australian firm’s US finance practice.

Five partners will leave Ashurst this week to join US firm Chapman and Cutler, with a sixth partner, Lawrence Berkovich, also set to leave, though his destination is unclear.

Like Berkovich, the five partners joining Chapman and Cutler – Pat Quill, David Nirenberg (tax), Steve Kopp (tax), Doug Bird and Tom Glushko – have practices focused on the collateralised loan obligation (CLO) market, with Ashurst opting to move away from this work.

All five partners moving to Chapman and Cutler joined Ashurst in 2009 from the firm’s former US ally McKee Nelson, as part of a 10-partner finance team that also included 20 more lawyers. McKee Nelson merged with now-defunct Bingham McCutchen the same year.

Their exits mean that all 10 of these partners have now left Ashurst, after Alice Yurke joined Jones Day in 2011, Scott Faga and Eugene Ferrer left for Paul Hastings in 2015, Richard Davis left in 2013 to join DLA Piper, while Michael Voldstad retired from the partnership earlier this year as part of the restructuring.

According to Ashurst’s website, there are currently 22 non-partner lawyers in New York. Ten of these have biographies listing CLOs as part of their practice, with six suggesting it to be an area of particular focus. Ashurst declined to comment on what will happen to these lawyers as a result of the restructuring.

The move away from CLO work and the partner exits are linked to the departure of a three-partner securitisation team also focusing on CLO work from Ashurst’s London office last year to join Paul Hastings.

Managing partner Paul Jenkins said: ”We restructured the US practice earlier on in the year and these departures are a consequence of that. The CLO practice is less relevant to our global structured finance practice. We will not be replacing the CLO team and we will be focusing our investment on practices which operate successfully across our platform. The departures to Chapman and Cutler will not be detrimental to the profitability of our US or global business.”

Ashurst global head of finance Helen Burton told Legal Week: “The firm is still committed to the US but we’re looking at the finance practice on a holistic basis. We no longer have a global CLO practice so it no longer made sense  to maintain the existing operation in the US.”

Despite the exits, Burton maintained that Ashurst expects to grow its offering in New York in the coming months. She said: “I would anticipate that the New York office will make further hires over the next 12 months, in areas including projects and banking.”

No other partners in the US or practices elsewhere will be affected by the restructuring.

The exits leave Ashurst with four partners in New York focusing on banking, energy and infrastructure.

Earlier this summer, Ashurst  announced an 11.5% profit per equity partner (PEP) hike to £672,000 for 2016-17, against a 7% hike in revenue.

However the growth, which followed a difficult 2015-16 when PEP plummeted by almost 20% and revenue fell 10%, came alongside a 6.5% decline in equity partner numbers.

Last week, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher returned to Ashurst to boost its European offering, hiring German finance partner Sebastian Schoon.

Schoon is the fifth partner Gibson Dunn has hired from Ashurst since the beginning of June.