It's safe to say that there have been a few years of anni horribiles for Eversheds (along with, to be fair, plenty of other firms) but things seem to be on the up.
The firm won a Golden Turd in the Firm Of The Year Survey
2010 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, it didn’t need to be so cloak and dagger about it. Its 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. Those who managed to hold onto their jobs found themselves with their pay and Christmas party cut.
That was then - but have things improved? Well, yes and no. The firm posted record profits in 2012/13, up 6% on the year before, of £85.4 million, on turnover of £376m, up 2.7% on 2011/12. But, on the other hand, redundancy reared its ugly head again, with 116 lawyers and staff axed in the summer.
Still, while the firm’s 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 in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 Firm of the Year Surveys
. Still hanging out in the bottom half of the table, at least there were a good clutch of firms below it and a bit of distance between it and the Golden Turd. Positive comments included praise for the firm's "top notch
" training and "responsibility dished out like school hot dinners
". Plus "freshly made cookies for meeting rooms and Werther's Originals help a sh*t day to go a bit better.
However negative comments still suggest that the firm still has some ground to cover to make it a "great place to work
". "Woeful salaries
" and high billing expectations are common complaints. And many respondents brought up poor communication and an outflux of talented lawyers.
Partners may well have hoped that a leaner firm would help it resolve Eversheds’ long-term headache of inconsistency across offices, a result of its aggressive policy of expansion via merger. This made it difficult to convince the market that it was a single body with an identifiable corporate culture rather than a collective of smaller firms. Over recent years some of the less profitable offices have been abandoned and smart new ones have been launched. And the "Eversheds' 2020 Vision
" will apparently focus on building ties over the pond. Watch this space.
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. However, 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.
Pay has long been an issue at the firm. London assistants are being paid at levels that are not only well short of the Magic Circle but lower than those paid at the firm’s competitors. "Salaries are way below those of firms we would like to think that we compete with, and that is beginning to hit us hard
", says one associate. And there's also dissatisfaction about the disparity of pay within the firm, with one NQ asking "Why should people in Cardiff and Newcastle be paid less than Manchester, Leeds or Birmingham?
There are various bonus schemes in place, linked both to the firm's overall performance and assistants' chargeable hours, but this is probably not the firm to work for if your chief motivator is cash.
On the plus side, there does appear to be a huge range of flexible working options, from career break to reduced hours, remote working and job sharing. More reports on whether this really does work please - if so then clearly this is a very good thing indeed.
There are also concerns about prospects. The firm made up a healthy 22 partners globally in 2012, but the chances are they are all salaried and are likely to remain so for a long time. In fact, fewer than half of the firm's partners are in the equity: around 136 out of a total of 317 partners. Average earnings for equity partners have been rising and rising (currently £642k for equity partners), no longer much less than what you'd make at a traditional City firm.
And you'll be working pretty similar hours for it. The firm says that it doesn't have a long hours culture, but an assistant tells us that one of the written criteria for becoming an associate is to record at least 2,000 billable hours a year.
Trainees should know that although the firm takes on a lot of new recruits every year they're shared out around its offices. This means that you'll never have more than 17 colleagues, so you should be able to get to know each other easily. We can’t decide whether it’s a good or bad thing that you may or may not have cavorted naked with them in training. You'll also have the opportunity to be seconded to the firm's international offices or clients. Whether it's a recipe for harmony is another matter. One correspondent told us in no uncertain terms that the "London trainees are turds and think they are god's gift to the earth".
Overall the London office is clearly making strides - work is good and pay is on the up. But the way it dealt with lay offs will not be forgotten any time soon. It's still got a way to go before it can match the deal on offer at its City competitors. A work in progress.
For more information on Eversheds click here