Author: Legal Week
14 Dec 2009 | 00:13
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Eversheds is among the largest firms in the UK however you measure it - revenue, fee earners, number of offices. The 334-partner firm placed 9th in the 2009 Legal Week Top 50, raking in £365.9m in fees, well ahead of national rivals such as Pinsent Masons and Addleshaw Goddard.
Eversheds' partner profits, however, fell by 27% in 2009 to reach £404,000, a reflection of the impact of the recession that took hold of the UK economy in the second half of 2008.
"The firm has a distinctly national feel to it," begins one contributor. "In terms of pure City-oriented work I'm not entirely convinced it punches its weight above [leading London firms]."
He suggests that bigger clients currently seem to favour the likes of Ashurst, BLP and Herbert Smith ahead of Eversheds for the more lucrative work, although this could be changing. "I would think that in the not too distant future Eversheds can punch quite easily into that market too," he adds.
Such comments reflects Eversheds' roots as a group of regional law firms that forged a national practice in the 1990s. The firm has since gone on to become fully integrated in profits and management. The firm's ambitions over the last five years have increasingly switched to the competitive London legal market, where it now has a substantial practice. The firm in 2008 made a statement of intent in the Capital, moving to flagship premises in Wood Street.
The last three years has also seen a growing emphasis placed on its international network. This has been reinforced by its successful drive to sell itself as a one-stop-shop for large corporate clients like Tyco, which has bolstered its international expansion.
However, despite its grand ambitions, there is no doubt that the domestic recession - and in particular the deep gloom in the property market - has hit Eversheds' practice hard. The firm was one of the first major UK law firms to make job cuts in 2008 and has now been through three redundancy programmes, with the firm shedding a total of 600 jobs over the 2008-09 period through redundancies and natural attrition. With Bryan Hughes recently taking over as chief executive Eversheds will be looking to build on the acclaim it has recently garnered for partnering deals with major clients like Tyco and put a tough trading period firmly behind it.
The firm was formed from a collection of regional practices to forge the UK's largest national practice with more than 2,000 lawyers across the network. Integration of so many disparate teams has taken some time but the firm is generally regarded to have been truly functioning as an integrated practice, in the UK at least, for a few years now.
The firm was one of many to be hit by the downturn in 2008, when the firm began a redundancy consultation that saw thirty-three property lawyers and a number of support staff come under threat. The firm at the same time announced the merger of its Norwich and Cambridge operations into one location in Cambridge. There was further evidence of the strain on its business when Eversheds hit the headlines in October 2008 for suspending partners' quarterly profits distributions to improve cash collection.
The firm, whose largest property practice was heavily hit by the recession and the malaise in the UK property market, ultimately made two more redundancy rounds. In total the firm has shed around 600 staff through redundancies and natural attrition as it moved to reshape its business for a much-changed market.
Nevertheless, there has been positive news for the firm in recent years with Eversheds winning plaudits for its drive to build the infrastructure and technology to better serve clients, a model it pioneered with Tyco and has since rolled out more widely. The firm has also shown some flair in its marketing and imagination considering how legal services will develop in future.
Click here to read a 2009 analysis of the firm's progress.
At the 2008 British Legal Awards, Eversheds walked away with the much coveted Law Firm of the Year award.
Still variable because of the sheer range of the practices. Different regional offices are regarded as having very differing cultures, particularly its traditional regional strongholds of Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham, which can be very independently-minded. Smaller outposts have sometimes struggled for identity and faced questions about where they fit into the long-term strategy. Cardiff is the home of the firm's sizeable bulk divisions, so functions very differently to other major offices.
Unsurprisingly, three redundancy rounds across 2008 and 2009 have taken their toll on the morale of staff. Legal Week Intelligence's latest Employee Satisfaction Report found a number of staff felt undervalued. There was also some concern regarding the firm's culture. Eversheds will want to rebuild morale in future as it moves past its restructuring.
Click here to read Eversheds' ‘Visions and Values'.
Key departments/leading partners
Hard to pin down because of the breadth of practice and locations. Manchester has some well-regarded corporate finance lawyers like Danny Hall, Edward Pysden and Nigel Dale. Birmingham is the stronghold of some highly-rated property lawyers such as Parmjit Singh and Tim Webb. Other decent corporate partners include Robin Johnson and Peter Halpin. The firm also has a range of decent lawyers across commercial areas including public law, employment and pensions. London, meanwhile, has a respected financial services team.
A non-exhaustive list of leading partners across the firm would include:
Very wide nationally with nine offices across the UK and a total of 38 offices group-wide. The firm's international network, which comprises both fully-integrated offices and alliance firms, looks set for substantial growth.
Include Tyco, DuPont, Centrica, Legal & General, Rolls Royce, Wilson Bowden and Bakkavor.
Good. The firm has shaken up the business a lot in recent years, has consistently made a good number of partners - including a record haul of 30 this year - and is ambitious. Equity is now guarded a little more jealously than in recent years but is not yet at DLA Piper levels. Since the firm has taken a tougher line with under-performing partners in recent years, there appears to be space for new talent.
"Notorious miser" is how one regional solicitor brands the firm; Eversheds is certainly not regarded as a pace-setter on pay, either nationally or in London. It pays nears the top of the market but is not the most generous. Not a great bonus scheme either.
At a senior level, the firm overhauled its partnership last year to bring in a much more aggressively meritocratic system for distributing cash to its equity partners. The firm pays all staff a flat bonus, £400 last year. One poster describes its bonus structure for assistants as being "based on chargeable hours (up to 20% of salary depending on hours)".
In July 2008, the firm froze its salaries for newly-qualified lawyers in both London and the regions, at £62,000 and £39,000 respectively. Likewise, Eversheds solicitors with one-year post-qualification experience also had their pay bands frozen at £61,000-£68,000 in London and £37,250-£40,500 for those outside the capital.
In October 2007 Eversheds introduced new performance bands for junior salaries, a move which gave NQs the opportunity to earn more than their seniors. Pay for two-year post-qualified lawyers onwards is almost entirely merit-based.
Prospects are best in London, where the firm is ramping up investment even further. For more info on Eversheds' recruitment programme, click here.
Historically not viewed as one of the most hard-bitten firms, though times are changing as it has committed itself to substantially beefing up its London office in future. There are also reports that the firm has become more focused on hours as its ambitions have grown. Legal Week Intelligence's 2009 Employee Satisfaction Report, which included responses from 205 Eversheds assistants, found the firm was given relatively low marks for work/life balance by its own staff. Neither were assistants that happy about billable hour expectations. Set against that, the firm has in recent years made some efforts to support flexible working..
As a reasonably progressive employer and one with a substantial national presence, better than average.
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