The Legal Cheek View
This year global megafirm Ashurst celebrates 200 years in operation. Its founder, William Henry Ashurst, established the firm in London in 1822. He was a lawyer and activist whose pro bono efforts saw many great changes to British society, including greater representation in the electoral system. Today, Ashurst maintains a focus on pro bono and corporate social responsibility (CSR) across its global network of 29 offices in 19 countries.
Ashurst has been in Asia for more than 30 years, with offices in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo and Jakarta. The Hong Kong office is newer than most in the city and opened in 2008. It provides advisory support to corporates, financial institutions and governments in Greater China and the wider Asia Pacific. In 2013, Ashurst merged with Aussie outfit Blake Dawson, further strengthening its presence in the region.
It’s been another strong year for Ashurst, as global revenue shot up by 12% to £798 million in its latest set of financial results, marking the sixth consecutive year of growth for the firm. The Hong Kong restructuring team this year completed one of the city’s biggest debt restructuring transactions to date, advising MIE Holdings Corporation to “significantly improve” its financial position and that of its subsidiaries.
The firm takes about seven to eight trainees each year in Hong Kong. During the two-year training contract, a trainee is paired with a partner mentor who they share a room with and can turn to for guidance and support. Trainees rotate through the firm’s core practice areas in corporate, finance, disputes, energy and infrastructure, among others, and are able to draw on the vast training resources available in London, which is also a popular destination among rookies for an overseas secondment. In times before Covid, trainees have travelled to Shanghai, Singapore and Australia too.
There are 19 partners in total and they are generally approachable and willing to lend a hand. They also “delegate work with clear instructions and guidance”, as per one anonymous trainee respondent to our 2022-23 Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey.
Ashurst’s Hong Kong office is conveniently located in Central, occupying 11/F of Jardine House. Given it’s situated on one of the lower floors of the 52-storey building, the views aren’t as spectacular as those higher up, but the meeting rooms do offer a close view of the Hong Kong Observation Wheel and surrounding fairground, which is nice. Here’s a funny observation for readers: Jardine House is renowned in the city for its round windows, a design which has earned it the nickname, ‘the house of a thousand arseholes’!
Ashurst has a NewLaw division, Ashurst Advance, which helps enhance the efficiency of its lawyers’ work around the globe. The firm’s lawyers, including trainees, can work from home for a portion of their week and are given a “subsidy” to enable them to do so. The firm also has a global taskforce which finds ways to help it achieve its green goals, such as issuing “conscious travel guidelines” to lawyers making travel arrangements.
Every year Ashurst runs a four-week summer vacation scheme for penultimate and final-year law students to get a taste of life as a trainee. To get onto the scheme, the firm considers fluency in Chinese “desirable but not a must” since it’s not absolutely necessary to specialise in some areas of legal practice in Hong Kong.