Eversheds Sutherland - True Picture

Transatlantic giant Eversheds Sutherland is capitalising on its post-merger presence.

Finding Everland

It's the biggest firm in the country (over 1,600 lawyers in 10 offices), so there’s really no excuse for not knowing Eversheds Sutherland. This firm’s prestige and reputation were recognised by our interviewees across all the regions it operates in – trainees in Leeds, Cardiff, Cambridge and Manchester told us a similar story: “It has a big presence in my city!” Furthermore, those trainees working outside the capital understood it presented “the opportunity to get London-quality work.” Indeed, the firm is appointed a national leader by Chambers UK in banking & finance, construction, corporate/M&A, employment, litigation, pensions, planning, real estate, real estate litigation and restructuring/insolvency.

Along with its regional clout, trainees said they “aren’t deprived of an international experience.” Not only are international secondments up for grabs each rotation, but it's not long since the ribbon was cut on the firm's transatlantic merger. The union between UK arm Eversheds and the US firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan boosted the number of offices from 40 to 66 sites in 32 countries. Trainees initially felt a lot of buzz: “We rebranded and they gave us new diaries and mugs. There was a big ‘launch day’ presentation in the office with American food.” Once the doughnuts had been digested “it’s been business as usual for trainees. Day to day I don’t see international work constantly but it’s nice to know it's there.” Emerging talent manager Catherine Knight hints that “any further expansion would probably be in the US and potentially London and continental Europe. Beyond that we’re getting the message out there that we have this fantastic platform we can provide to clients globally.” On that note, 2018 saw Eversheds Sutherland merge with Dutch firm Faasen & Partners.

"There was a big ‘launch day’ presentation in the office with American food.”

Trainees in the bigger offices like London, Manchester, Cardiff and Birmingham have more seats to choose from. Newcastle has just three seats. Luckily trainees across the network have the possibility of swapping offices if there is a business need to do so. All trainees submit their top three seat preferences to HR along with an explanation of their choices, but there was some anxiety surrounding allocation: “Lots of people think they’ve got to take partners for a coffee to wangle a certain seat. It doesn’t usually work because the likelihood of a partner going to HR off the back of a five-minute coffee is rare.” Rare maybe, but not unheard of: “That’s how I got my current seat!” Recently the firm began a ‘roadshow’ before each rotation to help trainees make more informed decisions: “They had a Dragons Den-esque presentation where each team pitched to us for two minutes – talking about what the department does and the role expected of the trainee.”

International and client secondments have more formal allocation processes, requiring a CV and a partner recommendation. There are usually about six international options on offer in locations like Doha, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Abu Dhabi. A seat with Paris’s international arbitration team proved to be extremely popular. Client secondments include stints with Heathrow Airport, Shell, Lloyds and Virgin Money.

Evershedloads of IPOs

The firm-wide commercial group encompasses outsourcing, procurement and strategic agreements, plus all sorts of miscellaneous contracts and other bits that keep businesses ticking over in sectors that range from defence to financial services. The firm recently acted for Transport for Greater Manchester on its £500 million procurement of a new operational contractor for the Manchester Metrolink. It also handled Aviva’s outsourcing of its real estate management portfolio, leading on the negotiations in a matter which involved 20 jurisdictions. The London department has sub-teams tackling commercial contracts, intellectual property, IT and outsourcing, consumer credit, and data protection. In commercial contracts, trainees “did lots of transaction management – emailing clients and counsel in other jurisdictions to ask for fee quotes and advice.” The firm also recently advised KFC on the outsourcing of its restaurant audit services to a specialist provider. Across teams, trainees did “lots of proofreading, cross-reference checks, drafting of elements of the agreement and quite a lot of research and advice notes.” The latter was one of the biggest tasks: “Clients want advice on any new tech development and how it’ll impact them.” And with GDPR “there were so many advice notes needing to be done!” Birmingham has a specialism in rail and transport, but trainees aren't as focused as in London. “We dabble in everything. With IT I’d be reviewing statements of work and making template terms and conditions for clients. In data protection I’d make up retention schedules and privacy policies. I also did the first draft of a service agreement based on precedent.”

“I was lucky enough to work on three IPOs!”

Commercial trainees also supported the corporate team on due diligence. The firm recently advised outsourcing company Capita on the £888 million sale of part of its business, and commercial trainees reported being “responsible for all of the commercial contracts. There was more client involvement, because I had to make sure all the necessary points were in the documents correctly.” The corporate team advises regional through to international companies on M&A, with each office performing best in certain sectors: overall, the firm is well known for real estate and energy expertise, but the Manchester team, for example, has a bulk of regional aviation and chemicals clients. Cardiff is strong on renewable energy work, while Birmingham has a thing for private equity. The firm recently advised National Grid on the separation and £13.8 billion sale of Cadent Gas, its gas distribution business.

There's more than M&A though: Manchester’s equity capital markets practice acted on five IPOs last year. “I was lucky enough to work on three IPOs!” one trainee told us, while others described this as “much more of an assisting role” than other seats. In Leeds there were tight deadlines for trainees working on “the sale of the UK branches of a sweet company that was owned internationally. There was quite a bit of travel between London and Leeds to meet clients. I took responsibility of the documents list that gets circulated among the parties. If anything was outstanding I’d flag it up to the rest of the team.” There was also some drafting of ancillary documents and some client contact: “If we were asked to negotiate a point I’d ask the client what their position was and relay that back to the other side.” For London trainees “a lot of responsibility came from handling project management” but this could lead to having “a lot of mundane tasks” to wade through.

A stint in banking is sure to “whip you into shape” with its long hours, particularly as London acts as a hub for the international banking and finance group. Outside of London impressive matters include advising a syndicate of seven lenders on the £350 million refinancing of Domino's Pizza Group, and helping Footasylum on the financing it needed for its proposed listing. Across the offices the firm can also count many of the best-known high-street banks as clients. The trainee role on transactions “is to manage the conditions precedent checklist, then to chase people up for the CP without being asked when you get a bit more confident. You’re quite an important part of the team because if you’re not doing it right it can all fall apart. When it comes to the day of the money moving other lawyers need to know all the CPs are met. You can’t get away from that role!” There might be some drafting opportunities on facility agreements and debentures, but initially trainees were more likely to write legal opinions and CP satisfaction letters. On a multi-jurisdictional corporate refinancing for a large manufacturer one source remembered “liaising with foreign counsel on their documents to make sure they were consistent. That involved 18 jurisdictions!”

You call that a case?

The real estate group acts on investment, development, regeneration and a load more corporate property matters. The firm advised KPMG on the £400 million sale of their headquarters in Canada Square, while the Leeds team helped the Government Property Agency on the pre-let of a new home for HMRC in Leeds. Rent: a cool £9.25 million per year. The Cardiff real estate team, meanwhile, helped on the real estate aspects of the financing of Tigwynt Windfarm in Powys. Post-merger trainees found that “we tend to get a lot of portfolio deals that involve lots of properties in the US.” The group’s head sits in Birmingham, where trainees were happy with their responsibility: “I started off with about 15 of my own files! I’d get given client instructions and draft the lease renewal myself!” Manchester trainees were similarly pleased with getting their hands on files: “There’s scope to do lower value tenant management matters for some of our commercial tenants. I did a wayleave matter for a client in the petro-chemicals industry. I was negotiating with a partner from a smaller firm – it got very complicated looking through their specifications!”

“You get a few funny looks watching these YouTube videos!”

Dispute resolution contains several individual seats: real estate litigation, commercial dispute resolution (CDR), and financial services disputes and investigations (FSDI). In CDR, an international arbitration team sits in the London office. Working on a worldwide freezing order drove home the firm’s international side to this interviewee: “The party we’re litigating against is based in France and the assets are in Panama, the Marshall Islands, Switzerland –  everywhere! I got to go to Paris for three days and there was a video conference set up with the London court.” One London trainee gave their view on the seat's downsides: “Some trainees were in till 4am bundling, so I wouldn't touch it with a bargepole.” It was a bit more popular in Manchester: “I’ve done quite a bit of research and drafted letters out to the other side.” Sector focuses include energy, industrial, engineering and healthcare. The work's diverse enough to bring in the Royal Bank of Canada Trust Company asking for advice in a dispute over the royalties from the film Crocodile Dundee in LA (we must have missed that one). One Cambridge partner has a particularly niche specialism: “Working for large landowning clients who have a problem with YouTubers who climb on their buildings.” Assisting on injunctions to stop them meant “helping prepare documents for trial and printing video stills for exhibits. You get a few funny looks watching these YouTube videos!”

Talking Eversheds

If trainees want an NQ role when the jobs list is published, they have two weeks to apply with a CV, cover letter and their performance reports from the end of seat reviews. Departments are at liberty to offer jobs based on the application alone, though trainees must sometimes complete extra assessments. In 2018, Eversheds retained 31 out of its 44 qualifying trainees.

“They’re a big player in the market but it’s not reflected in the salaries.”

Following an orientation week in the Leeds office for all trainees, training varied between seats: “Corporate commercial have more online sessions, but real estate and environment have hardly any so it’s hard to get your head round it at times.” Ten-hour days blight the regions in busy times, but they're the norm in London. A long day for the City lasts around 12 hours with 3am or 4am finishes sprinkled here and there. London trainees clung to their higher salary as consolation, but trainees in the regions weren’t as satisfied: “They’re a big player in the market but it’s not reflected in the salaries.” However, salaries were bumped up in 2018: trainees in the regions now get £27,000 in their first-year and £29,500 in their second-year.

All Eversheds offices are open plan. London enjoys a “cracking canteen,” and a rooftop garden complete with a beehive. The trainees were equally busy bees, and it showed: “I think it’s a ‘grind the hours out and then we’re happy’ kind of culture,” judged one. But among trainees “everyone is really good friends.” Manchester sources comparatively described an “inclusive and laid-back” environment. In a “beautiful old building,” Birmingham’s lot take advantage of the vac scheme period by setting up escape room activities and canal boat tours. Leeds was the foodie of the group, hosting “a chocolate tasting and a wine and cheese evening.”

“Everyone knows everyone” in the new Nottingham office, which resembles a “Brooklyn hipster cafe” with its exposed brick walls and big windows. In the smaller Cambridge office our sources were pleased by the “growing number of younger lawyers.” Newcastle trainees enjoyed a relaxed atmosphere: “In the middle of the afternoon you’ll start chatting about the soaps you watched last night!

Eversheds is launching a ‘pass the baton’ programme to allow qualified lawyers to do exchanges around the firm’s international offices.


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How to get an Eversheds Sutherland training contract


Vacation scheme deadline (2019): 6 January 2019

Training contract deadline (2021): 30 June 2019

The application form

Eversheds receives around 2,000 to 2,500 initial applications a year. Its baseline academic criteria are a 2:1 and ABB at A-level. 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 assessment

The entire assessment process at Eversheds was recently overhauled and now has a ‘strengths-based’ approach. Emerging talent manager Catherine Knight tell us “each strength we’ve identified is assessed at least twice throughout the process, whether it be in the online application form or on the assessment day.” The application form itself contains long-answer questions testing different strengths in a candidate. The firm then 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, which is more formal than the video interview. The day consists of a face to face interview with a partner, a role play and a written exercise. Candidates are scored not only on their strengths, but also on their energy and enjoyment throughout the tasks. The day rounds off with 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,” 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 the planning department first 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.

Interview with emerging talent manager Catherine Knight

Chambers Student: What does Eversheds look for in a candidate?

Catherine Knight: It isn’t a million miles from many other large commercial law firms: we’re all looking for the best potential future lawyers. We’ve actually changed our recruitment process recently. We’ve moved away from a competency-based approach to a strength-based approach. A strength-based approach means not just looking at what somebody is good at, but also at what they enjoy doing, because then we’re getting a balanced approach as to whether somebody is going to succeed in the role.

CS: What’s your advice to applicants on how to boost their CVs or impress at the interview stage?

CK: The most important thing is showing motivation for us. There’sonly so much you can glean from a website but it’s obviously a good starting point. I’d suggest candidates have a read of our website and try to come along to any events we’re hosting, whether on campus or any in-house events in the office. If you identify a firm you’re interested in it’s really important to go to those events. We do open days just before Christmas at the end of the first term in each of our offices. Essentially, get in front of a variety of people at the firm. It’s important to talk to perhaps someone from the emerging talent team, and perhaps someone at trainee level to get a good idea of what you might be doing in the early stages. And don’t be afraid to name drop in application forms!

Have an understanding of the type of work we do. A lot of candidates who I’ve met are quite generic in their answers. They could be applying to any firm out there! It’s important to read the legal press and get a more unbiased view of what’s going on in the firm, as well as an idea of the work we’re doing.

CS: What can you tell us about the firm’s strategy post-merger?

CK: We joined forces with the Sutherland element about a year and a half ago, and that combination has been very successful. Any further expansion would probably be in the US and potentially London and continental Europe. Beyond that we’re getting the message out there that we have this fantastic platform we can provide to clients globally.

Eversheds Sutherland

1 Wood Street,
Website www.eversheds.com

  • Partners 700
  • Lawyers 2,300+
  • Total trainees 110
  • UK offices London, Cambridge, Ipswich, Nottingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle & Edinburgh
  • Overseas offices 56
  • 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 2019
  • Training contract deadline, 2021 start: 30 June 20198
  • Vacation scheme applications open: 1 October 2018
  • Vacation scheme 2019 deadline: 8 January 2019
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £26,000-£37,000
  • Second-year salary: £27,500-£28,500
  • Post-qualification salary: £42,000-£72,000
  • Holiday entitlement: 26 days
  • Sponsorship 
  • 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.

Firm profile

Eversheds Sutherland is one of the world’s largest full-service law firms operating as one team, across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and North America. Recognised as the leading innovators in the legal sector, we provide new legal and business solutions to meet the needs of our clients. Eversheds Sutherland is about consistently delivering great service whenever our clients need it.

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

Core work: company commercial, litigation and dispute management, real estate and human resources (employment and pensions).

Training opportunities

Our firm attracts great people and we’ve created an environment where they can achieve great things. So it will come as no surprise that Eversheds Sutherland is home to some of the most innovative and inspiring lawyers in the industry — or that we look for trainees with the ambition and enterprise to keep us ahead of the competition in the future.

True, you will need a strong academic background and proven ability to apply your intellect to complex problems. But that’s just the start. Our trainees need to be multi-faceted people who combine extreme professionalism with outstanding expertise, genuine approachability and real personality.

Vacation placements

We run two-week vacation placement schemes in our office. Placements offer you a great opportunity to get a feel for what Eversheds Sutherland is all about, and most of our vacation students are amazed at the variety and level of work they can get involved in.

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 have 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.

Other benefits

Life assurance, private healthcare, cycle to work schemes, gym, restaurant, gourmet card, season ticket loan, employee assistance programme.

Open days and first-year opportunities

Open days run during autumn term (open to all) and will be advertised online from September.

University law careers fairs 2018

University of York, University of Nottingham, Warwick University, LSE, University of Leeds, Cardiff University, Bristol University, University of Birmingham, Durham University, UEA, Newcastle University, UCL, KCL, University of Cambridge, Oxford, National Law Live and University of Manchester.

Social media

Facebook @eslegaltrainee

Twitter @eslegaltrainee

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2018

Ranked Departments

    • Construction (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Information Technology (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance: Borrowers (Band 5)
    • Banking Litigation (Band 4)
    • Commercial and Corporate Litigation Recognised Practitioner
    • Competition Law (Band 3)
    • Construction: Purchaser (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market (Band 1)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 3)
    • Financial Crime: Corporates (Band 3)
    • Information Technology (Band 4)
    • Litigation (Band 4)
    • Pensions (Band 2)
    • Planning (Band 3)
    • Professional Negligence: Insurance (Band 3)
    • Public International Law (Band 3)
    • Real Estate Finance (Band 3)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
    • Real Estate: Big-Ticket (Band 3)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 4)
    • Tax (Band 5)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 2)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Information Technology (Band 2)
    • Litigation (Band 2)
    • Pensions (Band 1)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Professional Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 1)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Information Technology (Band 2)
    • Litigation (Band 1)
    • Pensions (Band 1)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 1)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Pensions (Band 2)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Construction (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Information Technology Recognised Practitioner
    • Litigation (Band 1)
    • Pensions (Band 1)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 1)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
    • Employment Recognised Practitioner
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Banking Litigation (Band 1)
    • Competition Law (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: AIM (Band 2)
    • Commercial Contracts (Band 3)
    • Commodities: Physicals (Band 4)
    • Consumer Finance (Band 2)
    • Data Protection & Information Law (Band 3)
    • Education: Institutions (Higher & Further Education) (Band 1)
    • Education: Institutions (Schools) (Band 2)
    • Employee Share Schemes & Incentives (Band 4)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Oil & Gas (Band 5)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Power (Band 3)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 2)
    • Financial Services: Non-contentious Regulatory (Band 4)
    • Fraud: Civil (Band 5)
    • Health & Safety (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 4)
    • Insurance: Contentious Claims (Band 5)
    • International Arbitration: Investor-State Arbitration Recognised Practitioner
    • Investment Funds: Closed-ended Listed Funds (Band 3)
    • Investment Funds: Open-ended Funds (Band 1)
    • Investment Funds: Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Outsourcing (Band 3)
    • Parliamentary & Public Affairs: Parliamentary Agency (Band 1)
    • Pensions Litigation (Band 1)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts: Mid-Market (Band 4)
    • Product Liability: Food (Band 2)
    • Product Liability: Mainly Defendant (Band 4)
    • Public Procurement (Band 1)
    • Retail (Band 1)
    • Transport: Rail: Franchising (Band 1)
    • Transport: Rail: Planning & Authorisation (Band 2)
    • Administrative & Public Law (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Construction (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Information Technology (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Litigation (Band 1)
    • Pensions (Band 1)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Professional Negligence (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 2)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Information Technology (Band 3)
    • Litigation (Band 1)
    • Planning (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 1)