The merger between Eversheds and US firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan created a transatlantic megafirm with 2,300 lawyers across nearly 70 offices in over 30 countries. Since then Eversheds Sutherland has been in growth mode, opening new offices and launching alliances in Dusseldorf, Moscow, St Petersburg, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Prague and Bratislava. Revenue at the firm’s non-US business this year increased 8% from £548.8 million to £592 million, while profit per equity partner (PEP) is up slightly from £886,000 to £902,000 – a new firm record.
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 four 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 consistently well-rated, 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”, with one revealing that the coaching in their previous seat was “rather poor”.
Quality of work is mixed, with some mentally stimulating legal tasks balanced out by non-legal trainee admin tasks. One rookie quips: “Once spent all day re-arranging cells on a spreadsheet.” 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 helps 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. “I fondly remember attempting to introduce myself to a member of staff on the first day of a new seat to be greeted with the charm of a curt ‘Go away’,” another trainee adds.
If anything, there’s been more friction in the trainee intake of late, where “everyone understands that you’re in it together but there are always those who are happy to throw you under a bus when they can”. Another insider adds: “There are one or two dog eat dog trainees who seriously don’t belong somewhere as mellow as Eversheds, but everyone else is great. Beware that some juniors can be “precious about their mugs”.
The generally positive vibes are reflected in the distinctly reasonable levels of work/life balance at Eversheds Sutherland. Across the firm’s offices, the average arrival time in the office is around nine, and the average leave time comfortably before seven. “I’ve never had to work into a weekend (and indeed have been told off for doing so),” notes one rookie. But prepare for some quite wide variations between offices and departments. As one trainee reports: “Totally depends on the team you’re in, but if you’re in banking, CDR or corporate then tell your friends that you will see them in six months and get used to four hours sleep.” Still, with such teams largely based in London — where trainee and newly qualified salaries are higher — the compensation is largely in place to reflect this.
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. And it’s in these old divisions where tension occasionally bubbles up.
Gripes include being “paid like our local rivals” but “worked like our London counterparts”. Not everyone feels this way, though. One Eversheds trainee told us: “I get on well with the wider trainee cohort when we meet up (and I don’t recognise the ‘London snobbery’ that I had been warned about).”
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. Due to COVID-19, only some of the firm’s trainees and junior lawyers have done an international secondment or travelled abroad on firm business. Destinations include Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Qatar. The firm is good for client secondments too, with several rookies completing one in various destinations.
Opportunities like these are Eversheds Sutherlands’ perks, which can leave those expecting lavish freebies feeling disappointed. As one insider puts it: “You work here for the friendly people, decent working hours (depending on team) and potential for flexibility if you ever decide to have children. For these things you have to be prepared to sacrifice pay and perks, which are pretty terrible.” Another adds that “free water is available in the kitchen”.
Also tolerated through slightly gritted teeth is Eversheds Sutherlands’ IT. “Our current systems and time recording software are, frankly, an embarrassment,” one trainee tells us. “There is a lot of ‘talk’ on innovation and ‘litigation technologies’ etc but ultimately we still have to deal with printer paper jams, calls to the Service Desk and a crashing DM system,” another laments. That said, over the past year Eversheds has forked out for “flash new laptops”. Following COVID-19, remote working lawyers also received free “widescreen Samsung” monitors, keyboards, headsets and “ergonomic” office chairs – although these reportedly weren’t sent out until late June, three months after the UK went into lockdown.
The firm’s IT response to the global pandemic has, however, received a fair bit of praise from trainees. “Credit where credit is due – Eversheds managed to move its (somewhat infamous) IT system remotely extremely smoothly. There are some connection issues but the firm established an extremely helpful team to deal specifically with remote working issues,” one insider said.
In normal times, we hear that 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”. Plus, a subsidised Starbucks (an Eversheds client) in the London office means “the coffee is inexpensive enough when you need a brain boost mid-morning”. In addition, everyone gets discounts at Apple (another client), there is private healthcare and even a ‘bike doctor’ who comes in to perform free services on lawyers’ cycles. Most of the office canteens get a thumbs up too, even if there is a tendency to “think fish is vegetarian” and argue “that cheese isn’t dairy”. Canteen prices, although reasonable, have “steadily increased over the course of my TC”, one rookie reports. This is perhaps offset with the “free fruit with lunch”, which one describes as a “nice touch”, and in London a subsidised bar which “has the cheapest drinks we could buy in the City”.
As for offices, Manchester trainees are buzzing for the upcoming move to Two New Bailey Square. “The sneak peeks look awesome,” one rookie reports. Eversheds’ Ipswich operation relocated to a new base last year – its first move in 21 years. The shiny-glass London headquarters offers “really beautiful views of St Pauls from the client floor”, while the Leeds office is “modern and airy” following a recent refurb meaning it’s “still one of the flashiest places in the city”.