Who says international work can only be found in London? Ever-expanding Eversheds Sutherland gets its regional trainees in on all the global action.
Happily Eversheds after
We heard wedding bells back in February 2017 when Eversheds tied the knot with US firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan. The mega union propelled ever-growing Eversheds – now Eversheds Sutherland – into the top ten largest law firms in the UK by revenue and it's now the 39th largest firm globally with a combined turnover of over £600 million.
Like Goldilocks on her hunt for the perfect porridge (or something like that), international giant Eversheds had been on the lookout for a US merger for a while but never seemed to find quite the right fit. Talks with Milwaukee-based firm Foley & Lardner in 2015 went south once the press got wind of negotiations, before Sutherland came along and proved it was just right. “It's an exciting time,” trainees reflected, emphasising that “having a US presence is a massively positive development.” Sutherland brings with it six US bases covering the East Coast, Texas and California, as well as outposts in Geneva and London. Eversheds, meanwhile, had dozens of offices across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and East Asia. In the UK – where the firm has ten offices – training contracts are up for grabs in London, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Nottingham.
Expansion hasn't stopped at this transatlantic merger:in May Eversheds Sutherland added Singaporean firm Harry Elias Partnership to its empire. Looking ahead, “the main priority is integrating the legacy Eversheds and Sutherland firms,” trainees understood. “I think we'll soon notice more opportunities as a result of the merger but it'll be a gradual process.” The global outfit also elevated its long-serving managing partner – Lee Ranson – to the position of CEO in May 2017.
Eversheds has a huge array of practices, earning it over 100 Chambers UKrankings for both its regional and UK-wide efforts. Seat-wise, it should be noted that not all opportunities are available in every office. Environment work can only be found in Manchester, for example, while tax is only in London. Shipping is only offered out of Newcastle, though there are only three seats there to start with (shipping, commercial dispute resolution and employment). Cardiff offers a seat in renewable energy, but its focus in this area is so strong it influences the work in every department there. It's possible to complete a seat in another office, though smaller regional bases like Cambridge (which often need all of their trainees on site) find it harder to accommodate office-swaps.
Trainees submit three seat preferences at each rotation, while those applying for client secondments or overseas seats do so separately; you submit a CV for the former or a CV, application form and cover letter for the latter. “Having a chat with a partner goes down really well if you want a certain seat,” sources told us. “You need to make the effort and put in the legwork to get what you want.”
“I was encouraged to get involved with the transaction and drive it forward.”
The sector specialism of the commercial department differs from office to office. While London, Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham deal with a broad range – from financial services to retail to defence matters – Cardiff is a master of renewable energy and Cambridge is big on life sciences. Data protection and rail-related work are also on offer. John Lewis, Volkswagen and AstraZeneca are all on the department's books, and its lawyers recently advised London and Continental Railway on the procurement contracts needed for its £550 million Mayfield Regeneration Project in Manchester.
In this seat “you could essentially handle anything the clients want put into writing, from documents that secure warehouse storage to vehicle leases, pricing agreements and company terms and conditions.” Proof-reading comes as standard – especially when the corporate team need support to review merger contracts – but sources had also taken on a more active role, conducting “high-level reviews to inform a client of what we think is missing from an agreement.” Others had taken a shot at first drafts of contracts or “conducted research into quite technical areas,” often acting as the first point of contact for clients.
Eversheds' corporate team in London has strong experience in the real estate, TMT, financial services and energy and natural resources sectors; clients therefore range from the London Stock Exchange to the China National Nuclear Corporation. A recent deal saw the team represent property investor SEGRO on an £800 million partnership with Roxhill Development to build warehouse sites in the South East and Midlands.
Falling under the corporate banner, education is a particular speciality of the Cambridge office, where there's a surprising amount of international work. “I was often getting in touch with our colleagues overseas to help UK clients get advice on tax issues or how to set up new institutions abroad,” one source here told us. “I've also been involved in due diligence reports for mergers and collaborations between institutions.” Across the offices deal-doers had drafted ancillary documents, prepared Companies House forms and put together board minutes. One trainee “even assisted in drafting the share purchase agreement. I was encouraged to get involved with the transaction and drive it forward.”
The real estate group is a large one, comprising three teams – occupiers, developers and planning – which each take their own trainees. Chambers UK considers the firm a national leader for real estate outside of London, and bestows top-tier rankings on its work in the North West, Wales and West Midlands. In Birmingham the team is working on a raft of development matters in the city centre; it's currently advising Birmingham City Council on the £345 million sale of the Grand Central development to property managers Hammerson.Trainees here tackle “a lot of lease work for shopping centres. You're crafting the initial drafts of documents, negotiating with the other side and taking it to completion. On the bigger cases you're more likely to be doing client management work, as well as preparing lease reports and drafting ancillary documents.” Across the firm trainees relished the hands-on nature of the work here. “You're plonked in with no hesitancy,” one Londoner merrily revealed, while a Manchester source enjoyed “juggling and balancing everything going on. It's such a busy seat.”
Dispute resolutionis split up into subgroups, which are all offered as individual seats (though not necessarily in all offices). These include: financial services disputes and investigations (FSDI), real estate litigation and general commercial disputes. FSDI handles “a lot of retail banking litigation like PPI claims or the mis-selling of pension plans. There's a lot of scope to have a go at drafting particulars of claim and to manage your own files – plus a good amount of disclosure and bundling too.”
Real estate litigation sees trainees handling “lots of small files like lease break notices,” while those in general commercial disputes see a whole range of commercial bust-ups, from contract breaches to warranty claims. Bundling, writing instructions to counsel and drafting defences and witness statements are all par for the course in a disputes seat. Recent matters saw Cardiff's litigators advise the Ecclesiastical Insurance Office during the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in England and Wales; in Manchester the team acted for the Royal Bank of Canada Trust Company in a £1 million royalties spat over the film Crocodile Dundee in LA; and across the Pennines in Leeds lawyers represented Peninsula Community Health over the termination of a £260 million outsourcing contract with BT.
The banking department acts for both lenders – like Santander, RBS and the East Africa Development Bank – and borrowers like Next and pub retailer Greene King. Many trainees had come across real estate financing matters, much like this one: Eversheds' London team advised HSBC on the financing of a £400 million city centre residential development scheme in Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester. There's also the chance to get in on some acquisition financing work too. The seat was “a bit of a shock to the system,” one trainee admitted. “You can be running the whole conditions precedent process for a huge financing,” so organisation is key as trainees ensure that all ancillary documents are present and that the stipulated conditions are met. “At times it was really confusing and complicated!” Interviewees had also kept everything up-to-date for completion and on smaller matters “drafted debentures, deeds of subordination and even bits of facility agreements.”
Banking and corporate were the two seats most likely to deprive trainees of sleep. “I had three days of 9am starts and 4am finishes. By Friday I was like a zombie,” one deal-doer recalled. Although peaks and troughs are to be expected in these seats, elsewhere trainees encountered fairly regular schedules of 8.30/9am starts and 6.30/7pm finishes. Salary-wise, first-year trainees in London take home £37,000, while those in the regions bag £26,000. Cambridge trainees in particular were keen for a bump in pay “as it's an expensive city; we've got a lot less disposable income than trainees in Leeds and Newcastle.”
Some like it hot-desking
Client secondments are also on the menu, with trainees recently spending time at John Lewis, Heathrow Airport, BAE Systems and Manchester United. “It's great to get taken out of the training contract bubble,” one fan enthused, “as seeing the commercial aspect helps you to appreciate the impact of legal work on the client.” Those with a desire to travel further can jet off to an overseas office, with options including Hong Kong, Shanghai, Paris, Doha and Singapore.
Trainees don't have to travel far to experience international work though, as that can be accessed across the UK offices. Renewable energy matters, for example, involve lots of Middle Eastern and African projects, while competition has a heavy EU slant. Domestic work-sharing means that trainees can also collaborate with their colleagues across the UK network, but sources did inform us that social interaction between locations is fairly limited;all newbies gather in Leeds for a week of PSC training, and are subsequently encouraged to attend courses elsewhere in the UK to catch up with their cohort.
It's a different story within Eversheds' offices, where heaps of social events reportedly take place, from informal monthly drinks to sports games to office-wide seasonal parties. Birmingham and Leeds both offer 'Inner Circle' networking events which bring together junior professionals from different industries; Leeds recently hosted Rio Carnival and Easter-themed dos to encourage its lawyers to network their socks off. Big events in Cardiff often take place with clients, including trips to the races and a Six Nations game. Drinks on-site are also a favourite in London, where the office's coffee shop transforms into a cool bar on Thursdays and Fridays. Nottingham hosts a big annual charity quiz at Trent Bridge cricket ground, while over in Cambridge “we're going to be holding an office tosser competition.” Sorry, WHAT? “It's a pancake tossing competition to raise money for WaterAid,” our source clarified. Ah, of course, of course...
“Eversheds recognises hard work.”
It therefore came as no surprise to hear that Eversheds folk are “on the extroverted side” and “easygoing.” All of the firm's offices are open plan so “it makes people more approachable.” Some operate a hot-desking system, making it easier to forge connections across the different levels: “One day you could be sat by a partner and the next, a fellow trainee.” On the whole, our sources felt that “Eversheds recognises hard work and people who are genuinely engaged. If you go in with the right attitude and speak up they're very supportive.” A case in point: “The firm recently held a competition for an innovative business-building idea and a trainee won – she bagged a £30,000 prize!” Er, can we submit our ideas too?
Keeping their eye on the prize, sources also told us that the NQ jobs list had been released at the start at April – “a lot earlier than usual as it's Brexit death year,” sighed one mournful trainee. As a result we were told that the firm would be cautious and offer fewer NQ positions, but trainees still had good things to say: “They've given us plenty of notice so we know where we stand and can make arrangements, which is good of them.” In the end, 44 of Eversheds' 55 qualifiers were kept on by the firm in 2017.
While links to local areas are great, our sources knew of several trainees who'd upped sticks and moved to a whole new city for their training contract.
How to get an Eversheds Sutherland training contract
Training contract deadline (2020): 30 June 2018
The application form
Eversheds receives around 2,000 to 2,500 initial applications a year. Its baseline academic criteria are a 2:1 and a minimum of 320 UCAS points. That said, if you have decent previous commercial work experience, then not having those 320 points in not fatal.
Beyond academics, commercial awareness stands out as the key competency recruiters look for. Eversheds makes no secret of the fact that it wants its trainees to have a business mentality, be able to understand the commercial environment in which its clients operate, and demonstrate an understanding of the marketplace challenges it faces as a law firm. “Knowing about the innovative approach the firm takes, its '2020 vision' and its key values is really important,” said one trainee.
The application form itself contains questions on commercial awareness, a candidate's commitment to commercial law and their interest in the firm. You'll note that all those questions essentially relate commercial awareness, so brush up on the firm and what it's doing as a business early on.
The video interview and selection day
The firm conducts video interviews with around 600 individuals a year for vac scheme and training contract places combined. Between 150 and 200 individuals (including vac schemers) go on to the firm's assessment day each year. The day consists of a series of tasks all part of a single scenario designed to mimic a real-life situation a trainee may have to work through, as well as a partner interview and group exercise.
The assessment day interview is more formal than for the video interview with questions about competencies and motivations. A source at the firm told us: “We'll have a copy of their CV in front of us and start by going through that to find out about their journey so far and how they got to where they are.” Candidates will also be asked to demonstrate certain competencies – like a commitment to client service – by using examples. Unsurprisingly there are questions about commercial awareness too. Personal competencies – such as “going above and beyond what is required to deliver great service” – may also be linked to client service and thus to commerciality. And there's more. “I remember discussing recent stories which had been in the business news,” recalled one successful applicant. “I was also asked to pick a company I was interested in and talk about it. So I ended up discussing Apple for half an hour.”
During the application day, a letter-writing exercise must be done at the same time as managing a fictional email inbox. “There are all these emails coming through, and you have to choose which ones to action and which to ignore,”recalled a trainee. “It tests how well you can juggle and manage the work load which a trainee has.” Following this is a proofreading exercise, which assesses attention to detail, and then a group exercise in which candidates have to collaborate/negotiate to agree on a series of outcomes. “My top tip for the group exercise is that it's not what you say that matters, but how you say it,” advised one current trainee. “What the assessors are looking for are things like whether you call people by their first names and whether you bring people into the conversation if they aren't saying much.”
The last exercise is a presentation to one or more partners or fee-earners, during which each candidate has to give feedback describing what has been decided during the group exercise. Finally, there is an unassessed lunch with current trainees.
The vacation scheme
Eversheds offers 80 vac scheme places a year, with summer students based in the same eight offices which take trainees. “We try to make it as much of a mini-training contract as we can,” says a recruitment source tells us. “That means giving students real work which comes from clients. We don't give them any made-up work.”
Feedback from our trainee interviewees who'd completed a vac scheme was unsurprisingly positive. “It's a good reflection of what being a trainee is like,” said one. “I was sat next to a head of department for a week, and he took me to a very high-profile meeting.” Another interviewee added: “I sat with first the planning department and then employment. I was kept quite busy. There were two and a half days each week when I was actually sat in those departments. The rest of the time was devoted to presentations and other activities.” And there are plenty of activities to get involved in. For example, Eversheds' vac scheme has a dedicated corporate social responsibility day.
Around half the firm's trainees join via the vac scheme, so standing out among your peers is important. (Do the maths: the firm recruits about 55 trainees a year, around 25 to 30 of whom come through the scheme on which there are 80 places.) “The vac scheme is all about getting the chance to impress – there is a big focus on personality,” said one trainee. “A point was made of the fact that everyone you met would be giving feedback on you.” The vac scheme ends with an assessment day and one-on-one interview. While on the scheme, candidates also complete the group exercise from the selection day.
Who fits the bill?
Beyond the academic requirement and competencies outlined above, is there anything which sets Eversheds' trainees apart? Well, the somewhat unhelpful answer is no. Our interviewees at Eversheds are always a mixed bunch, including everyone from international jet-setters to individuals with strong regional ties to Wales, Yorkshire or the North East. Past interviewees have ranged from City brainboxes with a big interest in high finance to one individual who said that “things like investment banking really don't appeal to me,” and had previously worked in the services industry and then for a government regulator.
We also spoke to trainees who had always been high achievers and waltzed out of university with several training contracts offers, as well as individuals who'd got low grades and spent years paralegalling even to get a whiff of a training contract offer. We've also heard of recent trainees at Eversheds who've had past work experience in publishing, teaching, government and the charities sector.
National law firms
Read more about firms like Eversheds with offices across the UK in our feature on National law firms.
1 Wood Street,
- Partners 395
- Lawyers 1,150
- Total trainees 110
- UK offices London, Cambridge, Ipswich, Nottingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle & Edinburgh
- Overseas offices 53
- Contact [email protected] com
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 50
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Minimum A levels: ABB
- Vacation scheme places pa: 80
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 March 2018
- Training contract deadline, 2020 start: 30 June 2018
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1 October 2017
- Vacation scheme 2018 deadline: 8 January 2018
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £26,000 - £37,000
- Second-year salary: £27,500-£28,500
- Post-qualification salary: £41,500 - £64,000
- Holiday entitlement: 26 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: £5,000-£7,000
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts
- Dubai, Hong Kong, London, Cambridge, Nottingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle.
We are committed to finding and developing talented legal graduates interested in becoming a solicitor. Our people are valued for their drive and legal expertise but also for their business advice too. We develop the same qualities in our trainees. With a structured solicitor training programme, our legal training contracts and graduate jobs allow you to establish the skills you need to achieve your aspirations.
The training programme allows you to focus your technical skills in each of the various practice groups as you rotate through four six-month seats. You will also take part in a full programme of personal and commercial development skills training too, including finance and business, communication, presenting, business writing, client care, professional standards and advocacy. From trainee to fully qualified solicitor, Eversheds Sutherland offer an environment for a highly rewarding legal career with unbounded opportunities for progression.
Main areas of work
True, you will need a strong academic background and proven ability to apply your intellect to complex problems. But that’s just the start. Eversheds Sutherland trainees need to be multi-faceted people who combine extreme professionalism with outstanding expertise, genuine approachability and real personality.
You will be paid £329 a week (London) or £288 a week (regions). We welcome applications from penultimate year law undergraduates, final year non-law graduates as well as candidates who’ve already graduated or taken different career paths.
Selected candidates will be shortlisted to video interview. If you pass this interview you will then be invited to a selection day. If you do well on the vacation scheme, you may be offered a training contract.
Open days and first-year opportunities
University law careers fairs 2017