An Ashurst senior partner has rejected the notion that there is disquiet within the firm regarding the impending merger with Blake Dawson.
Speaking to Lawyers Weekly yesterday (16 November), the global firm's senior partner Charlie Geffen said comments made by an Ashurst partner to UK publication Legal Week in September were not indicative of prevailing attitudes.
An anonymous partner was quoted by Legal Week as saying, "The ultimate success of the merger will depend entirely upon whether Blakes can be whipped into shape".
"I don't know who said it, but it was utterly ignorant and wrong," said Geffen.
Geffen and around a dozen other Ashurst partners were in Australia for the Blake Dawson partner conference, at which plans for the merger were discussed with partners and clients.
Geffen said the reaction to the merger has been overwhelmingly positive.
"We have been visiting clients ... to talk to them about what we have done and to get their reactions," he said.
"The reactions have been very positive. The thing we are really delighted about is that the clients, as well as the partners in both firms, completely understand the rationale for what we have done. Most importantly, people ... who know both firms constantly say, 'Your cultures are very similar. It's a fantastic fit from the people side'. That is hugely important."
Ashurst and Blake Dawson officially announced the merger in September after months of speculation about a tie-up.
Blake Dawson chairman Mary Padbury told Lawyers Weekly yesterday that both firms are confident the merger will be a success and also denied rumours about partner disquiet.
"The profitability of Blake Dawson has improved 25 per cent in the last two years," she said. "We are well ahead of our revenue and profit budget for this year. We are very comparable, in terms of profitability, to Ashurst. We realise that the statement [in Legal Week] is not reflective of the Ashurst partnership. It was not something we have had cause to be concerned about."
Padbury also said the strength of the Blake Dawson brand in Australia -- and the prominence of the Ashurst brand in Asia -- will make for a powerful combination which will see the firm be able to compete with better-known Magic Circle firms Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy.
"Obviously, the Blake Dawson name is well known ... and we're very confident we'll be able to transition the goodwill and the Blake Dawson name to Ashurst," she said. "Clients understand the inexorable march of globalisation and a number of clients have global businesses, so they immediately see the benefit of having a single firm which can service their needs in more than one jurisdiction.
"They also understand that in consolidating industries, names will change. What really matters is the quality and calibre of the people they have been dealing with ... We are confident we will build up the reputation of the Ashurst brand in Australia fairly quickly."
The firms will unite under the Ashurst brand in March next year, including a merging of offices across Asia. The firms will then move towards full integration as a single partnership by 2014.
According to Padbury, however, the firms are already beginning to operate as one unit.
"In some ways, I think we are already thinking and acting as one firm," she said. "Our partners and people at all levels in the firm are making contact with their counterparts in the same practice areas, and chasing down endless opportunities. Things are off and running."