The Legal Cheek View
The merger between Eversheds and US firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan created a transatlantic megafirm that now has over 3,000 lawyers across 74 offices in 35 countries. Since then Eversheds Sutherland has been in growth mode, opening new offices and launching alliances in Dusseldorf, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Prague, Bratislava, Portugal, Angola and Mozambique and, in 2022, San Francisco and Bulgaria.
Revenue increased 8% hitting £678.4 million, while profit per equity partner (PEP) is up 26% from £984,000 to £1.2 million — a new firm record that crosses the million-pound mark for the first time. It’s worth noting that Eversheds and Sutherland Asbill & Brennan remain financially independent despite the co-branding, with the US branch of the business reporting separate results.
This separation may explain why the effect of the merger on UK rookies has been pretty minimal — with barely a squeak about the US combination in the comments received in the past few years’ Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Surveys. The big pre-tie up themes remain, with Eversheds Sutherland still coming across as a solid firm, with particularly nice partners, a decent work/life balance and a ‘sector-focused’ approach that leads to some great client secondments.
The training is “largely very good”, with times when it feels like you’re in the Royal Marines balanced out by occasional ‘up the creek without a paddle’ moments. However, rookies warn that “there are significant differences in terms of quality of training depending on the team and supervisor”. This trainee provides some more details: “Some team members have really gone out of their way to make sure that we receive the training we need — there are some stand out partners and associates who time and again will ensure that we are getting a great variety of work, client exposure and quality feedback. Equally, there are associates who use trainees for the sole purpose of running redlines, finding documents they have misplaced, or carrying things”.
Another notes: “Some teams believe that ‘learning by doing’ means somehow learning what to do without much instruction or information ahead of the task and little feedback afterwards. Some teams are very involved and provide a lot of support, feedback and interesting additional training”.
But, when not being a glorified PA, expect a decent bit of responsibility: “The tasks can be challenging and push you out of your comfort zone which is great for learning although it may be scary at times”. That said, some rookies complained that in some seats they feel “like a robot as the work is extremely repetitive i.e. churning out the same defences, witness statements but tweaking the claimant’s name”, whilst others boast that they have experienced working on “projects at the forefront of new developments and areas of law”.
The burden is lightened by the partners, who are definitely at the more down-to-earth and approachable end of the corporate law firm spectrum. “No one is too senior to make time for helping you to refine your skills,” another trainee adds. There’s a legendary story of one of Eversheds’ senior partners hiring an ice-cream van a few summers ago to give everyone in the office free frozen treats. We are told that the best partners are “like a big brother/sister with some professionalism thrown in” and that “if it wasn’t for email signatures (and the obvious age giveaway) it would be quite hard to identify who the partners/juniors are”.
Eversheds’ open-plan offices help to break down these barriers, with partners and trainees often working side-by-side. But it’s best to pick your moments, we’re told, and approach superiors “with a solution focused mindset” if you encounter any mishaps. Approachability varies according to department and “mainly revolves around availability rather than their character”. More senior fee earners are “lovely and very approachable but actually finding time to approach them due to their schedules can be tricky”.
Perhaps this is unsurprising given that PEP keeps on rising! Eversheds trainees are a fairly busy bunch. “Peaks and troughs”, is how one puts it, adding “but if you’re in a trough you’ll get called out for your utilisation”. Another shares their experience: “Most teams have limited scope for any work life balance because of client needs, as is expected. The hours are much more forgiving in litigation than in transactional teams. The upside is that weekends are rarely interrupted”. In spite of this reality, trainees are “encouraged to log off and not stay late unless ABSOLUTELY essential” and when you are burning the midnight oil, you tend to receive “lots of appreciation”.
It helps that “there are some decent human beings it has to be said”. Trainees all get along very well with the only obstacle being how busy everyone is: “My peers are very supportive and will help when asked. Understandably, they are quite busy and can be difficult to reach but they will always find time”. With Eversheds present in significant numbers in eleven locations across the UK — many of which date back to the merger of a disparate collection of national practices 25 years ago, when the Eversheds brand was born — this is as much a national firm as a City one. Those qualifying into the firm’s London office can expect the recently increased rate of £95,000, whilst NQ’s in the regions have also seen a significant salary rise, jumping from £50,000 to £62,000.
Eversheds Sutherland also has a major international presence; even pre-Sutherland merger the firm represented in 27 countries outside the UK — mostly in Europe, but also in Asia and the Middle East. However, international secondments are apparently yet to restart following the pandemic. Typical destinations in the past included Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Qatar. That said, many of the Eversheds recruits we spoke to seemed to be real home bunnies, grumbling about the firm’s push to get its lawyers into the office more often than just two days per week. The firm is good for client secondments too, with several rookies completing one in various destinations such as HSBC and Amazon.
Opportunities like these are Eversheds Sutherlands’ perks, which can leave those expecting lavish freebies feeling disappointed. One sarky insider quipped “free oxygen is available throughout the office”. However, that does not seem to quite be the full picture. Gymflex, private health insurance and free breakfast food and snacks in the office are all appreciated, as well as surprise drops to trainees’ desks, like advent calendars at Christmas and Easter eggs at Easter. But the best of the perks is undoubtedly the social events. Partners make room for “generous social budgets” and will “reward staff with ad hoc meals out as well as larger, more formal socials which are always fun nights out”. “It is great as you feel appreciated for your work and rewarded for your efforts”, says one.
And there’s a fair bit of positivity about the tech too. “We’re in the process of investing in a lot of new IT systems and tech – some of it is now fantastic and our client-facing legal tech solutions are innovative and really slick, making it so much easier to work collaboratively. The bits that aren’t so good are very tedious and cost time, but these are being replaced so hopefully won’t be a problem for much longer” explains one spy. Some feel the new gadgets are “making the daily work a lot lighter and efficient”, whilst the more sceptical retort that “every week some new shiny piece of software gets wheeled out that no one will use because the laptops barely work”.
With a little regional competition between trainees, office bragging rights are a big deal. But consensus is that Real Madrid and Barcelona of Eversheds UK offices are the London and Manchester digs. “Win the office lottery and a spectacular view of St Paul’s is your reward. Lose and you’ll soon forget what daylight looks like”, vaunts one London aficionado. However, Manchester trainees are thrilled with the recent move to Two New Bailey Square. “The new Manchester office is beautiful — especially the roof terrace with views out over the city” says an insider. Many of the other offices are also in the process of being refurbished and have now added eco-friendly features in the form of garden rooftops, with beehives. As one insider exclaimed: “we grow vegetables on the roof!”.