Ashurst has launched a four-lawyer transport and infrastructure-focused base in Santa Monica, its second US office after New York.
The firm announced today (25 February) that projects partner Anna Hermelin has relocated from the firm’s Tokyo office to become managing partner of the new West Coast operations in the Los Angeles County.
The new outpost, staffed by Hermelin and three California-qualified Ashurst associates, will focus on projects and project finance work in the transport and social infrastructure sectors. Ashurst aims to grow the team to between seven and ten lawyers within a year.
A spokesperson for Ashurst said the launch was a reflection of mandates on the West Coast having increased significantly and was ‘aligned to the firm’s ambitions in terms of its projects, project finance and infrastructure offering’.
Hermelin told Legal Business that the firm was already working with clients including LA Metro and that the upcoming 2028 Los Angeles Olympics were ‘a strong driver for a number of infrastructure projects.’
She said that the choice of Santa Monica over downtown Los Angeles was ‘purely logistical’: ‘It’s closer to where people live and we can drive [into LA] if we have client meetings.’
California has gathered increasing attention from international law firms in the last few years, although interest has mainly been focused on the booming Bay Area tech scene rather than the Los Angeles surroundings.
Some point to a growing gap between the North and the South of the state, with fewer financial institutions and public companies based around Los Angeles compared to a decade ago and reverberations across the legal industry. New York royalty Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, for example, has reduced its LA headcount in recent years and is planning to move to smaller premises when its current lease expires in 2021.
Others however point to the growing strength of the media and entertainment scene around LA’s Century City district, with Latham & Watkins launching locally in 2014 and Paul Hastings following suit in March 2018. The burgeoning tech scene around the area ambitiously dubbed Silicon Beach, between LA and Santa Monica, is also getting more attention from investors, with Boston-bred Goodwin launching in Santa Monica last year.
The launch of Ashurst’s second US base after New York follows the firm posting robust financials in 2018/19, with revenue rising 14% to £641m and profits per equity partner soaring 31% to £972,000. The firm has made considerable headway in New York in recent years having built out a generative government-side infrastructure advisory offering.