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 and turnover hit £376m (up 2.7% on 2011/12). But, on the other hand, redundancy reared its ugly head again, with 166 jobs at risk at the start of 2013
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 most recent RollOnFriday Firm of the Year
survey. 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 opportunity for "international work in most departments", plus "responsibility dished out like school hot dinners
". And there's a "shopping centre next to the office". Lunchtime splurge, tick.
However negative comments suggest that the firm still has some ground to cover. Salaries are described as "woeful"
and "below market"
. And high billing expectations are common complaints. The new bonus structure "makes us arguably worse off"
according to one lawyer 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?
" And some feel that the other offices "constantly play second fiddle to the London office".
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.
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