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Project Prism: Inside Ashurst’s integration plans

Ashurst‘s raft of investments are coming to light after managing partner Paul Jenkins flagged those costs as a reason the firm saw a 19% drop in profits per equity partner down to £603,000 from £747,000 for the financial year 2015/16.

In a plan dubbed ‘project prism’, legacy Ashurst and legacy Blake Dawson are replacing accounting and client systems to give the firm similar management tools across London, Australia and the rest of its international offices.

The firm expects the project to be completed in the first quarter of 2017 but refused to say how much it has cost to date.

Legal Business also understands about a year after the 2013 merger, the firm also appointed a new team of around 20 to 25 analysts to flag any conflicts of interests between the legacy firms’ clients. The team is based in the UK, Singapore and Australia to give the firm 24 hour coverage. A former partner said partners had to give that team 24 hours’ notice of a project so it can be cleared by both London and Australia before going ahead.

After turnover fell to 10% for 2015/16, bringing it down to £505m, the firm’s second year of falling revenues, Jenkins is confident he’s got the systems in place and the backing of the partnership to turn things around.

Jenkins told Legal Business: ‘[Our results] are not as good as they could have been or should have been. There has been significant investment over the last couple of years in technology as well as investing in laterals.

‘We’ve invested a lot in getting our platform right, and we are now realising the potential of the business,’ Jenkins said.

At the beginning of the August, the firm’s partnership passed a raft of remuneration changes, adding ten points to the top of its lockstep bringing it to 75, which currently starts at 25 points. A performance-based bonus pool for both equity and non-equity partners will also be brought in and salaried partners will receive part of their remuneration as a full equity share, although it is not clear what the ratio will be.

The firm is currently battling a wave of exits, with a number of leavers including the loss of restructuring partner Diane Roberts to Reed Smith, while Latham & Watkins hired financial regulation head Rob Moulton and restructuring partner Simon Baskerville in recent weeks.