The Legal Cheek View
The merger between Eversheds and US firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan went live on 1 February 2017, creating a new transatlantic megafirm with 2,300 lawyers across 61 offices in 29 countries. Four months later, Eversheds Sutherland took a 33% stake in 80-lawyer Singapore outfit Harry Elias Partnership.
Yet a casual peruser of the firm’s financial 2017 results could be excused for not realising that there has been any tie-up activity -- as Eversheds and Sutherland Asbill & Brennan remain financially independent despite the co-branding. So we are able to directly compare this year’s Eversheds’ results with last year’s, revealing a rise in revenue by 8% to £438.6m but a dip in profit per equity partner by 4% to £726,000 (which reflects some of that recent merger investment).
Judging by the responses to the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18, the effect of the merger on UK rookies has been pretty minimal – with barely a squeak about the US combination. Instead the big themes remain similar to last year, with Eversheds Sutherland still coming across as a solid firm, with nice partners, decent work/life balance and a 'sector-focused' approach that leads to some great client secondments.
While there are some gripes about the training and quality of work – alongside some “excellent formal training” a “shortage of admin staff” apparently means “you cant get involved in as much without having non-legal jobs prioritised for you” – the partners who oversee it all are definitely at the more down-to-earth and approachable end of the corporate law firm spectrum.
Last summer, in the midst of a heatwave, one of Eversheds' senior partners hired an ice-cream to give everyone in the office free frozen treats. It was a classy move that is typical of one of the nicer big law firms. And this year rookies responding to our survey tell us 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”.
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 1 or 2 dog eat dog trainees who seriously don’t belong somewhere as mellow as Eversheds, but everyone else is great. Vegan commune style supportive.”
The generally positive vibes are reflected in the distinctly reasonable levels of work life balance at Eversheds Sutherland. Across the firm’s ten UK offices, the average arrival time in the office is twenty to nine, and the average leave time is ten to seven. 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 newly qualified pay stands at £64,000 – the compensation is largely in place to reflect this.
With Eversheds present in significant numbers in 10 locations across the UK – many of which date back to the merger of 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, with even pre-Sutherland merger the firm represented in 27 countries outside the UK – mostly in Europe, but also in Asia and the Middle East. Not far off 20% of the firm's trainees and junior lawyers having done an international secondment or travelled abroad on firm business.
But it’s client secondments where Eversheds stands out. 35% have done one – one of the highest levels among UK corporate law firms – with destinations including Amazon, Manchester United and Siemens Wind Power.
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.” Also tolerated through slightly gritted teeth is Eversheds Sutherlands’ IT. “On one hand, the firm is really innovative and some of the tech ideas are amazing, on the other hand, our intranet is a maze stuck in the 90s that no one can navigate,” one trainee tells us.
Still, there are “a lot of socials, including some sports events”, plus a subsidised Starbucks (an Eversheds client) in the London office. 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”.