Things seem to be on the up at Eversheds Sutherland.
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, 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.
But the firm has turned things around. After a flat couple of years financially, PEP in 2017/18 was £812,000, up from £726,000. And revenue rose 13% to £494.6m, up from £438.6m (these results do not include the US figures).
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. Still hanging out in the bottom half of the table, at least there have been a good clutch of firms below it and a bit of distance from the Golden Turd. 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".
And there are mixed reports about management. One lawyer believes that there has been "much greater transparency from management" in recent times. Whilst another says "the senior management team is utterly ruthless".
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.
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. 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".
The firm fared well in the Firm of the Year 2018 survey with a score of 70% placing it 23rd out of 63 firms. In the comments,with a huge (and largely positive) response from staff, 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 moollah. 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".
In the 2019 survey it fared less well, with its staff giving it 59%. 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.
Overall the London office is making strides, even if it's still got a way to go before it can match the deal on offer at some of its City competitors.
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.