Eversheds originated as a tie-up in the 1980s between four small firms in Norwich, Birmingham, Cardiff and Newcastle. It expended to become a national stalwart, then in the 2000s added international offices, before the big one: a merger in 2016 with a US firm which prompted the adoption of its current name, Eversheds Sutherland.
It wasn't always onwards and upwards at the firm. It won a Golden Turd in the RollOnFroday irm Of The Year 2010 Survey by a country mile after making a massive number of staff redundant - 735 in all during 2008/09. And whilst it's possible that the firm had needed to do this for years, its then London senior partner didn’t need to send an email pointing out that he was sharing in everyone’s pain by foregoing pudding, and paying the bare minimum statutory redundancy was frankly shameful.
But the firm has turned things around. Financials recovered, offices were added. In looking to expand, the firm courted US firms, eventually netting Sutherland Asbill & Brennan. Sutherland was a far smaller firm than the Shed, but it offered what the UK firm coveted: a foothold in the US.
While Eversheds' slightly clumsy vision - to become "a great place to work and the most client-centred international law firm" – looked dead in the water in 2010, it has fared better with staff in subsequent Firm of the Year surveys. Eversheds staff are generally described as a "friendly and normal" bunch, with relatively few "stuck up law-types". The firm comes in for praise with its "huge range of client and international secondment opportunities". And for those in the UK that don't fancy the big smoke there's "good quality work in the regions".
The firm encourages junior staff to take on business development and awards "a bonus for successful initiatives". One lawyer praises the firm for being innovative with various projects, although noted that it "sometimes tips over into novelty for novelty's sake". However a slightly more cynical lawyer says there is a "huge amount of corporate bullshit" adding "if I had a boss who didn't see through it, I couldn't handle it". Whilst another complains that the firm "couldn't spell innovation, let alone deliver it".
Salaries are described as "below market" with bonuses "almost non existent". And despite high billing expectations "money stays at the upper echelons and doesn't cascade down" according to one lawyer. Some accuse the firm of "bleeding talent", with staff leaving because of pay. Other lawyers say they feel "undervalued".
While the firm is definitively mid-market, it has some stand-out practices including its public sector group, which has advised the MoJ on the expansion of prisons and regional development agencies on around £400m worth of EU-financed funds. Pensions and employment are also fast-growing areas. Although Eversheds' failure to grab a proper piece of the high-end corporate and finance action in the City - despite concerted attempts to do so - must grate with the firm, even if it's been suggested that the firm is at least starting to wake up from hibernation on that front.
There does appear to be a huge range of flexible working options, from career break to reduced hours, remote working and job sharing. Although one lawyer claims that the firm "talks the talk but definitely does not walk the walk in flexible working - you're definitely assumed to be slacking if you work from home and it's implicitly discouraged". Presumably Covid has knocked away that assumption.
The reaction to the US merger could best be described as positive-to-ambivalent. One solicitor said it "has had very little impact from a UK perspective", although it was "encouraging to see the network expanding". Even before turnover crossed $1 billion, staff were suggesting that it should probably, surely, definitely pay staff more moolah. But, "You know what, when they're good, they're very good people", said a junior solicitor. "Everyone who leaves for bigger and better things always says they'll miss the people. And they do when they realise quite a lot of places have much worse pricks than the occasional bad apples here. And we often miss the leavers too. Because we're nice".
On career development, it "promises a lot, rolls out lots of new development programmes and makes the right noises" according to a senior lawyer, but it "always relies on the partners to actually do something, and they don't".
A junior lawyer thought that the process for moving from associate to senior associate "seems fair and appropriate" but that "issues" arise at "the next two steps: from senior associate to principal associate to partner".
Still, others were very happy. One said the only thing that would get them to leave was a "fire alarm or bomb threat".
"Some of the dinosaurs have now gone and the hierarchy feels almost invisible," said a senior lawyer in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2021 survey: "you can have a chat with a partner like you would chat with a PA or a peer."
And in February 2019, the firm announced it would pay back to staff the salary reductions made under the 'Flex Scheme' that operated from June to November 2020, during the pandemic, when less busy lawyers were able to voluntarily take a reduction in hours to 80% for a commensurate drop in pay.
Staff seemed generally positive about the firm's conduct during Covid: "Received just a small bonus this year following COVID but grateful to be getting anything at all!!" said one lawyer. "It's not stellar but it could be a lot worse, especially at a time when people elsewhere are losing their jobs", agreed a junior solicitor. One lawyer was keener on encouraging a battle, though: "Regional 1PQE on £46,250 is pretty underwhelming", he said, and "although I can appreciate that's explained in part by a difficult 2020", a "regional pay war is the order of the day!"
NB - the salaries listed are for London, not the regions where, for example, trainee salaries are approx. £10k lower, and NQs may be paid £42k.