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Say howdy to Eversheds Sutherland
03 February 2017
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The merger between Eversheds and US firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan has gone live this week, creating a new firm called, wait for it, Eversheds Sutherland.

The Shed is several times larger than Sutherland, with approximately 1,220 lawyers and 1,745 non-fee-earners spread across 55 offices in 29 countries. Sutherland has 422 attorneys in eight offices, six of which are in the US. Eversheds also has the higher turnover, with revenues of £406m in 2015/16 compared to $300m (£236m) at Sutherland. But while the combined firm's 4,000 staff and revenue of £600m only just cracks the 40 biggest law firms by turnover (35 of which take in over $1 billion), it has given Eversheds what it has coveted: a foothold in the US.


  It's a missed opportunity of course

When Eversheds pursued merger talks with Milwaukee firm Foley & Lardner in 2015 it ended in failure. This time around even the Brexit vote, which was blamed for derailing Addleshaw Goddard's discussions with US firm Hunton & Williams, was not allowed to spoil the party. Partners voted to approve the merger on 1 December and adopted a Swiss verein-esque structure, sidestepping the time-consuming arrangements which a full merger would require. Instead, Eversheds Sutherland constitutes a limited company sitting above two LLPs, Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP and Eversheds Sutherland (US) LLP. When the merger went live this week, current Eversheds Chief Executive Bryan Hughes said, "establishing a truly global platform for our clients, including a strong presence in the US, has long been our number one strategic priority".

On average, Eversheds equity partners are paid around £50k less than their US counterparts, with equity partners at Eversheds earning £742k last year compared to $1.02m (£803k) for equity partners at Washington D.C.-based Sutherland. But both firms' partners have been offered a novel incentive to help the merger take.  A special bonus pot has been created to reward partners who help the transition run smoothly, with monetary rewards for "collaborative behaviours". They include referrals, clearing conflicts and, presumably, the sharing of fitness goals, the fedexing of cakes and conference call duets of 'Hands Across the Water'.

Managing Partner Lee Ranson, who will become joint chief executive of the new firm, said, "the reaction internally and externally so far could not have been better". Staff were mostly positive in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2017 survey. Lawyers said the office was "buzzing with excitement" and that there were "exciting times ahead". One characterised it as "the next steps towards global domination. Ahem, sorry *remembers not at Linklaters* - towards establishing an actual presence in that small, insignificant part of the world known as the Americas". Although there are signs that before the ink is even dry, expectations have already shifted. With the US merger, said an associate, "the salary gap between lawyers at the same level in different offices becomes a chasm".

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