Meet Eversheds Sutherland at the Legal Cheek UK Virtual Law Fair on 4 November 2021
The merger between Eversheds and US firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan created a transatlantic megafirm with 2,300 lawyers across 74 offices in 35 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 and most recently Portugal, Angola and Mozambique in June 2021. Global revenue increased 5.3% hitting $1.3 billion (£938 million), while profit per equity partner (PEP) is up 9% from £902,000 to £984,000 — 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 five 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 highly-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”. This junior summarises the training experience: “I think that the training experience so far has been very good. I have been given a lot of responsibility and been able to develop and work outside of my comfort zone. I have gained experience on a huge variety of tasks and working on loads of different projects”.
Quality of work is mixed, with some mentally stimulating legal tasks balanced out by non-legal trainee admin tasks. 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. “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.
That said, the mood amongst the rookie ranks is generally pretty positive. This is what one insider told Legal Cheek: “All of the trainees in my current intake are very supportive. We have a group chat where people can ask for help or ask general queries, and we are constantly communicating. We also organised a Teams call once a week for us to all catch up, and discuss how our various seats are going. I think, despite having started from home, we are a very close cohort and that has definitely added to my experience.”
The generally positive vibes are reflected in the distinctly reasonable levels of work/life balance at Eversheds Sutherland, although Legal Cheek understands that 2021 has been a very busy year at the firm. Across the firm’s offices, the average arrival time in the office is around nine, and the average leave time around 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)”. Those qualifying into the firm’s London office can expect the recently increased rate of £82,000, whilst NQ’s in the regions have also seen a salary rise, jumping from £45,000 to £50,000.
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. 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 limited.” 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’ of 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. In particular, the document management system is “very old and constantly breaks”, though the firm are thought to be looking to move to a new system in the future.
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 as well as a £150 allowance for office equipment.
When there is no pandemic on, 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 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, there is private healthcare and even a ‘bike doctor’ who comes in to perform free services on lawyers’ cycles. The firm’s recently refurbished 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”, as well as the free issue bean-to-cup coffee machines, 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 – whilst the Newcastle gaff is located at the heart of the city, overlooking the River Tyne and a number of famous landmarks. The shiny-glass London headquarters is said to also offer “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”. Many of these offices have now also added eco-friendly features in the form of garden rooftops, with beehives. As one insider exclaimed: “we grow vegetables on the roof!”.