Please note: On 1 February 2017 Eversheds merged with US firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan. The merged firm is called Eversheds Sutherland. Sutherland previously had a small London office with around a dozen lawyers and would occassionally take on a trainee. The feature below was prepared in summer 2016 before the merger took place or was announced.
Some firms have tons of regional offices. Some do international work. Eversheds offers both.
In 1988, law firms from Manchester, Sheffield, Norwich and Nottingham merged into one. Other mergers soon followed, and now Eversheds can boast dozens of offices spread across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and East Asia. And it's still growing, with new offices recently opening in Berlin, Belfast, Casablanca, Tangiers, Pori (in Finland) and now a mega merger with US firm Sutherland, bringing in six more offices spanning from the East coast via Texas to California. The firm has ten UK offices, with training contracts offered in London, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Nottingham. And it's not just the firm's geographic spread that's broad: its array of practices wins over 100 Chambers UK rankings for its efforts in its different locations and across the UK as a whole.
The combination of the global and the local appealed to many of our sources. When asked why they applied to Eversheds, one told us: “Eversheds has a huge range of practice areas, offers the chance to go on a client or an international secondment, and has an office local to where I live.” 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, and data protection is up for grabs in either Cambridge or London. Cardiff offers a seat in renewable energy and we heard that “the office generally has such a strong focus on renewable energy that you'll find yourself doing that kind of work regardless of the seat you're in.” Shipping is only offered out of Newcastle, though there are only three seats there to start with (shipping, commercial dispute resolution and employment). A Newcastle source filled us in: “Some go to another office for their fourth seat, others repeat seats and a few go on secondment.” If you're not in Newcastle but fancy a spell as a shipping lawyer, you'll be pleased to hear “it's generally easy to move offices, especially if the seat you want isn't available at home.”
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 plus application form plus cover letter for the latter. Sources advised “getting partners on your side” if you have a burning desire for any particular seats. “If you get in their good books they might request that you come and do a seat with them,” a trainee revealed. “Is that fair on the others? I don't know. But if you've taken the initiative to go out and speak to people, I think you deserve to be rewarded.”
Life at Eversheds start with a week of PSC training in Leeds which all newbies attend, and we heard that “it's a great way to meet everyone all in one go.” Once trainees join departments, there are webinars every two weeks or so and occasional departmental training with legal updates. “Overall, we certainly get enough training,” a source asserted. Trainees are also allocated an associate mentor and we heard that as well as getting mid-seat and end-of-seat reviews, trainees find “informal feedback is pretty easy to come by. People let you know when you've done well or not so well.”
The sector specialism of the commercial department differs from office to office. While London and Leeds deal with “pretty much any sector you can think of” from financial services to food and drink, Cardiff is a master of renewable energy and Cambridge is big on life sciences. Data protection and rail-related work are also on offer. Trainees asserted that compared to seats in areas like corporate or real estate, a seat in commercial lets you “learn a lot more law” and “develop technical legal drafting skills.” The group is currently advising Transport for Greater Manchester on its ongoing search for someone to run the city's tram network, and is counselling the Association of British Insurers on the data protection implications of its new flood insurance fund.
“This company's incorporating today. Can you deal with it?”
Eversheds' corporate clients are drawn from sectors including food and drink, finance, oil and gas, and defence. While other seats see trainees focusing on specific sectors, “it's very easy for trainees to work on a broad range of things in corporate.” Deals can be as British as working on the sale of a shopping centre in Blackpool or as international as helping a German bank sell its Congolese holdings to a Kenyan company. Trainees can be responsible for everything from drafting ancillary documents to filing a company's incorporation documents. Trainees work with solicitors in the whole department and if you're interested in doing something for a particular team member “you just march over and say you're interested.” Work flows the other way too, and you never know what might land in your lap. “It's a little surreal,” one trainee told us. “People will come up to me and say, 'This company's incorporating today. Can you deal with it?'”
Based within the corporate department, education is a particular speciality of the Cambridge office, although the firm also has education practitioners in London, Birmingham and Manchester. Given the contentious nature of the government's academies plans, it's perhaps not surprising that the group's work on academy conversions is confidential, but we can tell you that the firm has advised a number of multi-academy trusts on governance and merger matters. There's also a group that works with further and higher education institutions, and a surprising amount of international work. This group's pretty ambitious, so in addition to all the usual corporate stuff, trainees here can expect to gain business development and networking experience too.
Paradise in... Birmingham?
The real estate group is a large one, comprising three teams – occupiers, developers and planning – which each take their own trainees. Matters range from smaller transactions that trainees can be trusted to run themselves all the way to “glamorous national projects.” Even first-seaters get to run their own files with only “arm's-length supervision,” an experience they described as “quite scary,” but also “absolutely invaluable.” Trainees are also “trusted to get on with plot work,” which involves leasing or selling a particular property or lot, and “dealing with things like the stamp duty land tax issues.” On bigger transactions there's “a clearly defined trainee role” – ie drafting ancillary documents and dealing with post-completion tasks. The Birmingham real estate department is advising the company responsible for the mammoth redevelopment of the city's Paradise Circus area and is counselling HSBC on the relocation of its UK headquarters from London to Brum. Down in the capital, lawyers recently advised Facebook on the lease of its new British operations base and helped insurance and pensions firm Legal & General purchase a stake in Salford's Media City.
Dispute resolution is split up into subgroups, which are all offered as individual seats (though not necessarily in all offices): health and safety, financial services disputes and investigations (FSDI), real estate litigation, general commercial disputes, corporate claims and construction. Common trainee tasks include bundling, disclosure and keeping the client in the loop. Aside for this, trainee responsibilities vary depending on which subgroup they belonged to. For instance, a seat in FSDI comes with a healthy amount of “regulatory and investigatory work for banks,” while a trainee in health and safety had the cheery task of “co-ordinating an appropriate response to an accident in the workplace.” The Birmingham office recently headed up Birmingham City Council's investigation into claims that the city's schools were being infiltrated by Islamists, while London helped Network Rail get an injunction preventing strike action by the RMT and TSSA unions. Over in Cardiff, Eversheds helped establish the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry (which is one of the high-profile child abuse inquiries implicating Jimmy Savile) and is involved in collating and preparing all written and oral evidence.
“My supervisor got me straight in.”
The banking department acts for both lenders like HSBC, RBS and Barclays, and borrowers like Dairy Crest and Greene King. One recent international matter saw London lawyers advise on the English law aspects for a $150 million revolving loan for the Swiss trading subsidiary of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR. The department's work also includes acquisition finance, real estate finance and project finance. “My supervisor got me straight in,” recalled one source. “I drafted board minutes, share transfers and ancillary documents and I was emailing the client directly. By the end of the seat I was allowed to draft a debenture agreement and was project-managing our counsel overseas.” Another source explained: “There are a huge number of conditions which a borrower must satisfy in order to protect the bank lending to them. A key part of the junior-level job is managing the process of ensuring those conditions are met and keeping all the plates spinning.”
While each office has its own specialisms, Eversheds' large UK network also enables the sharing of work between London and the other offices. This is a win-win situation: clients can save money without compromising on quality (lawyers are cheaper outside London), while trainees get to do “London-quality work” without having to bear the smog and stress of London life. “I can't think of anything the firm does in London that we don't also do here,” a source in Cambridge told us. Work can come from more distant shores too and trainees regularly work with their colleagues in other countries. “I've worked on deals related to Africa, Scandinavia and the US," one interviewee told us, "and I'm currently working on something with links to Australia.”
Overseas seats are also up for grabs; trainees can go to destinations including Hong Kong, Shanghai, Paris, Doha and Singapore. “The firm push the overseas seats quite hard,” one trainee told us – good news for all you footloose and fancy-free legal eagles out there. But don't expect to get handed a stint abroad on a silver platter. “They really want trainees to think about why they want to go abroad,” one secondee explained, “so you need to make sure your application is good.” The overseas offices are smaller than those in the UK, which means more responsibilities. At the same time sources said that even while abroad you still feel “fully integrated with the UK mothership.” There are client secondments up for grabs too; trainees have recently spent time with John Lewis, Heathrow Airport, BAE Systems and Manchester United.
Trainees told us that “the hours you work here are generally pretty good,” with one Pollyanna adding: “I love working here, so the hours aren't a chore at all!” Still, long hours do happen, particularly in corporate where “sometimes you can leave at 5.30pm, and sometimes you'll be here until 2am.” Overall, our sources were happy with their work/life balance though and said that a normal day lasts from 9am or 9.30am to 6pm or 6.30pm. Our interviewees had worked a couple of late nights – we're talking finishing somewhere between 10pm and midnight here.
In London, it may be worth trying to finish early on Thursdays and Fridays, as from 5pm the office cafeteria turns into a bar serving “cheapish” booze. Not to be outdone, we heard that the Birmingham office is "very sociable" too, with trainees encouraged to get involved in networking and other events with the local Junior Lawyers Division. Manchester's digs are “not as snazzy as some of the other offices,” but with a nice canalside location (and a half-price Starbucks in the office to help with those late nights) nobody was complaining too much. All the offices are open-plan, which means “you can just walk up to anyone if you want to ask a question.”
Insiders described their trainee cohort as “a nice mix of people.” Last year we noted that Eversheds values people with some life experience, but while the current crop does contain some who had paralegalled for a few years or had past career experience, there were plenty of fresh young faces in the group too. We heard that some offices do like people to have links to the local area, although this is not a deal breaker. In 2016, 40 of Eversheds' 52 qualifiers were kept on by the firm as NQs.
Cymru am byth! Eversheds is the biggest national law firm with a presence in Wales.
How to get an Eversheds training contract
Vacation scheme deadline (2017): 31 January 2017
Training contract deadline (2019): 30 June 2017
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 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. Whilst 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 500+
- Lawyers 1,800
- Total trainees 120
- Contact [email protected]
- Method of application Apply online at www.eversheds.com
- Applications open on 1 October 2016
- Selection procedure Application form, video interview, selection day
- Closing date for 2017/19
- 31 January 2017 for 2017 summer vacation placement
- 30 June 2017 for 2019 training contracts
- Training contracts pa 55
- Applications pa 2,500 plus
- % interviewed pa 40%
- Required degree grade 2:1 and 320 UCAS points
- Training salary
- First year (2016):
- £37,000 (London)
- £26,000 (other regions)
- Second year (2016):
- £38,000 (London)
- £27,500 (other regions)
- Holiday entitlement 25 days
- % of trainees with a non-law degree pa 45%
- No. of seats available abroad pa 16
- Post-qualification salary (2016)
- £62,000 (London)
- £40,000 (other regions)
- % of trainees offered job on qualification (2015) 85%
Main areas of work
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