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‘Exciting times’: Ashurst elects three new board members after mixed year

The Ashurst partnership has elected London partner Karen Davies and Sydney partners James Marshall and Barbara Phair to its 10-member management board for three years, in a year marked by revenue growth and some partner exits.

The three new board members will replace London-based Angela Pearson and Australian partners Jennie Mansfield and Roger Davies, the first three to be appointed since Ashurst merged with Australia’s Blake Dawson in 2013.

Pearson, Mansfield and Davies will conclude their terms in November, leaving the body’s regional representation unchanged.

Karen Davies joined Ashurst in 2011 and became a partner in 2012, working on corporate finance transactions and specialising in mergers and acquisitions.

‘The firm is going through exciting times and I wanted to be part of it,’ she told Legal Business.

Restructuring, insolvency and special situations partner Marshall joined the firm in 1989 and the partnership in 1997.

Phair, who moved to Ashurst in 1986, has been a tax partner in its Sydney office since 2000.

The three will join chairman Ben Tidswell, vice-chairman Mary Padbury and managing partner Paul Jenkins on the board.

With four partners from Australia and four in the UK and Europe, representation is split between the firm’s City base and Australian office.

The remainder of the board is formed by Munich partner Bernd Egbers and London-based Jason Radford, who took up their appointment in November 2016, alongside two independent board members, Robert Gillespie and David Turner, who joined in 2013.

The board election comes after a financial year marked by a return to revenue growth after three years of decline, and a number of Paris partner exits.

In its 2016/17 financial results, Ashurst recorded an improvement its revenues by 7% to £541m, with an 11% boost to its profits per equity partner (PEP) to £672,000.

This year’s results followed two years of falling revenues and profitability after the Australian merger. The firm saw a 10% decrease in 2015/16 and of 4% in 2014/15.

Revenues and profits are still below pre-merger levels, when the firm recorded revenues of £568 and PEP at £801,000. Partner headcount, however, dropped by 23 in 2016/17 to 386, a 6% dip.

Davies was positive tone about the firm’s prospects, anticipating revenues will return to pre-2013 levels in the not too distant future.

‘We have been through a turbulent period but now we are on the up. We are back to business as usual and I am not anticipating any other partners will leave,’ Davies said.

In June, a four-lawyer team from Ashurst’s Paris arm went to Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, four months after five Paris partners departed to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

In August 2016, the firm’s partnership voted through changes to its remuneration system in a bid to retain top partners.

Ashurst added an extra 10 points, worth around £150,000, to the top of the equity ladder, which starts at 25 points. It now plateaus at 75 points, while the bottom remains unchanged. The firm also introduced a performance-based bonus pool for both equity and non-equity partners.