The 2017 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, Bulgaria and, in early 2023, San Francisco and China (via KWM).
The latest financials show revenue increased 8% to reach £730.9 million, while profit per equity partner (PEP) climbed 4% to £1.29 million. While both positive results, this is a marked difference on the 2021-22 financial year which saw profit per equity (PEP) rocket 26% and smash the £1 million barrier 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.
Like in Legal Cheek surveys gone by, Eversheds Sutherland still comes 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 “generally very good”, although one rookie grumbles “there could be more formal training for each seat, particularly the more technical ones”. We’re also told the levels of training — and particularly its quality — can depend on the team and supervisor. “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 offers this positive experience: “Training in general is of an excellent standard. I have benefitted from being a part of the Edinburgh office and had extensive experience with senior solicitors on a broad range of areas (employment, funds, commercial litigation and real estate).”
And newbies can expect decent levels of responsibility — if they’re up for it. “Once you prove yourself, there is scope to take on associate level work,” one former trainee explains. “In FS (funds), I was able to draft key fund documents for the establishment of a new fund. I also took on some substantive pieces of client advice in competition.” 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 and 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”. Another trainee shared this experience: “On the whole very good work which challenges me, however you do get a few fee earners who pass on tasks that are more suited to a PA.”
ES partners are at the more down-to-earth and approachable end of the corporate law firm spectrum. “Partners in every team I have come across have been friendly and approachable,” one spy tells us. “There’s a legendary story of one of Eversheds’ senior partners hiring an ice-cream van several 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”. Some rookies do warn however that the levels of friendliness can “depend completely on the team”.
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 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”. Another source shares their experience so far: “Very team dependent. In FS, I would finish at 8/9pm on average, with a couple 10/11pm finishes each week. Several late nights (3am) and sometimes weekends. In competition, very good work/life balance. The work tends to fluctuate a lot more. Many 5/6pm finishes — no late nights or weekends.”
It helps that “there are some decent human beings”. 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 take a rate of £95,000, whilst NQs in the regions trouser £62,000.
Eversheds Sutherland also has a major international presence; even pre-Sutherland merger the firm was represented in 27 countries outside the UK — mostly in Europe, but also in Asia and the Middle East. But international secondments are apparently still yet to restart following the pandemic, eliciting some grumbles from rookies. Pre-Covid, typical destinations included Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Qatar. As for client secondments, rookies report stints with the likes of HSBC, Amazon and the Department of Transport.
Perks don’t appear to be the perkiest, according to insiders. “There are some perks but these are not widely publicised or very useful,” one respondent to the 2023-24 Legal Cheek Survey tells us. “The food in the office is bad and expensive,” another says. However, that does not seem to be the full picture. Gymflex, private health insurance, free parking at UK offices (“great for weekend city visits”, says one rookie), free breakfast and food are all appreciated, as well as surprise drops to trainees’ desks, like advent calendars at Christmas and Easter eggs at Easter.
On the firm’s tech abilities, one source tells us: “Some really good solutions, however the basic technology systems sometimes let that down.” Echoing this, another says: “Our client-facing solutions are very advanced and useful, but the firm is let down by its internal technology.” A third source explains that there has been “significant investment” in legal tech in recent years but it “feels a little alien and clunky as we get used to it”.
With a little regional competition between trainees, office bragging rights are a big deal. But consensus is that the 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!”. There appears to be just one grumble on the office front: “A recent renovation hasn’t really improved the feeling of the Birmingham office — it still feels dated and a little dark.”