New CEO to take over at Ashtons Legal in the new year

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Corporate solicitor Ed O’Rourke is to take over the helm at Ashtons Legal from 1st January 2013. He succeeds Simon Smith who will leave after a highly successful decade during which, first as Managing Partner and then as CEO, he brought the firm through two mergers to the strong regional player it is today.

Ed was elected to the role by the firm’s partners who at the same time elected Mark Merriam as Chair of the Partnership Board and agreed on a new internal management structure. Both the CEO and Chair appointments are for a minimum term of three years.

Ed, who has lived and worked in East Anglia since 1998, is the ideal candidate to maintain and develop the progressive agenda started by Simon. He came into the law having previously run service sector businesses. He was described in this year’s Legal 500 directory as “personable yet professional, and willing to take the commercial view” – essential qualities for a law firm CEO. He currently heads Ashtons Legal’s Corporate and Commercial team, a role which will be taken on by Geoff Hazlewood from 1st January.

Simon Smith comments: “We have had a very positive first year since our merger in October 2011, including recruiting excellent new legal talent, retaining this year’s home-grown trainees when they qualified, gaining accolades from Legal 500 and Chambers that I had envisaged taking until at least next year to obtain, and recently winning a national award for our new website.

Ed has all the hallmarks of an excellent CEO and I’m supremely confident in his ability to steer Ashtons Legal successfully through the next phase of its development. From a personal perspective I’m delighted to be handing the mantle on to a very capable younger man and moving on to some other professional and personal challenges – at 57 I need to start them now while I am still young enough to give of my best!”.

Ed adds: “The legal profession is facing exciting but challenging times. Simon has brought Ashtons Legal to a point where we are ideally poised to capitalise on the opportunities available. We have a full regional presence in our core geographic market, complemented by niche areas of expertise in franchising law and French legal services, and an acknowledged position as regional market leader for personal and medical injury work. My job is to ensure that we continue to develop the services, and the means of delivering them, which our clients require, and consistently attract top legal and managerial talent to make this happen. I’m lucky to be stepping into the CEO role supported by an excellent team and I’m hugely looking forward to the opportunities ahead”.

Photographed from left to right: Simon Smith, Ed O’Rourke and Mark Merriam.


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