Ashurst has joined top-tier rivals Clayton Utz in rolling out redundancies before the end of the year.
Lawyers Weekly understands that the firm has recently initiated a number of redundancies, with the firm’s energy & resources practice being particularly badly hit.
“This is a very challenging market, and Ashurst Australia has made some adjustments in response to prevailing economic conditions,” a spokesperson from the firm told Lawyers Weekly. “Like all prudent businesses we will continue to assess the market conditions and respond as necessary. In doing so, we will place particular emphasis upon our ability to benefit from the upturn in the market when it occurs.”
Lawyers Weekly put a number of specific questions to the firm, including the number of staff that had been laid off, if the redundancies included fee earners, and the practice groups and locations where redundancies had occurred.
Ashurst declined to answer those specific questions, and responded to Lawyers Weekly with the above statement.
Ashurst merged with Blake Dawson in March this year, with both firms having well-regarded energy & resources practices.
Energy and resources companies of the calibre of BHP Billiton were long-standing clients of Blake Dawson, with the company’s current chief legal counsel, David Williamson, a partner for more than 20 years with Blake Dawson.
Ashurst increased its net profit for 2011-12 by just over five per cent to £112 million, with revenue increasing by six per cent to £322 million.
Those figures were generated prior to the merger with Blakes.
Secondment part of Australian downsizing?
The former head of Ashurst’s Australian energy & resources practice, Martin Kudnig, has been seconded to the firm’s London office.
Kudnig was formerly based in Perth, but is currently a partner in the firm’s corporate group in Melbourne.
“Martin will be working with the London team in building on the strength of our existing African practice, with a particular focus on mining and related infrastructure project development,” said an Ashurst spokesperson.
Kudnig commences his London secondment in January.
Ashurst refused to say whether the secondment of Kudnig, a former in-house counsel with Newcrest Mining and a partner with the firm for 13 years, was related to any plans to downsize the firm’s Australian energy & resources practice.
“This secondment is part of our ongoing plans to share expertise across our global network, looking to markets where there are clear opportunities for growth,” said the firm.
Earlier this month, Clayton Utz confirmed to Lawyers Weekly that it had shed up to 25 staff in Sydney and Melbourne.
Also earlier this month, senior Ashurst partner John Emmerig announced he had left the firm to join Jones Day in Sydney. Emmerig was the head of the firm’s class action practice.