Mark Wasserman
Mark Wasserman (John Disney/Staff)

Global firm Eversheds Sutherland made its formal debut on Wednesday, unveiling a new logo and website and cementing the most significant transatlantic tie-up since Norton Rose combined with Fulbright & Jaworski in 2013.

The equity partnerships of Atlanta-based Sutherland Asbill & Brennan and U.K. firm Eversheds voted Dec. 16 for the deal to create a 2,300-lawyer firm, with about 1,400 from Eversheds, another 500 from its affiliated firms internationally and 400 from Sutherland.


Lee Ranson

The two firms will share governance equally, with Eversheds’ CEO-elect Lee Ranson and Sutherland managing partner Mark Wasserman as co-CEOs.

Ranson said the impetus for the combination is to expand the combined firm’s market share with existing clients and, hopefully, gain new ones in an era of flat demand and increased competition for work.

Over the next five years, Ranson said, “I think there will be lots of law firms that don’t prosper, given the consolidation going on,” adding that in-house departments are continuing to whittle their roster of outside firms in response to pressures from corporate procurement departments. The question for Eversheds Sutherland, he said, will be, “Do we have a model that can take market share?” The firms’ partners wasted no time introducing themselves and their clients to each other as soon as the partnerships voted in December to combine.

“The beauty of the structure, and what we’re doing, is that we don’t have to worry about merging IT and financial functions,” Wasserman said. “The sole focus the last two months has been—what can we do client-wise?”

The combined entity is an English company limited by guarantee, an umbrella structure in which members’ finances are kept separate and which does not provide legal services.

The two firms will retain their existing internal governance structures, Wasserman said, and they will pool resources for marketing and further expansion. They will also contribute to a shared pool to reward partners for cross-selling and client development.

Wasserman and Ranson said the firm had no immediate plans to open new offices. They are “jointly looking at places our clients need us to be,” Wasserman said.

Even though the firms have separate profit pools, Wasserman said, “We can contribute to investments together without violating the tax structure,” again by using a shared fund.

“We have 61 offices in 29 countries from this combination,” Ranson added, “so it’s not like we have to open a new one immediately.”

Combined Yet Separate

The deal allows both firms to expand their global reach without giving up much control. Eversheds gains lawyers in the United States, where it didn’t have any, and Sutherland gains lawyers around the world.

Ranson’s goal is for Eversheds Sutherland is ambitious—to be the “leading global law firm” in five years, he said. Wasserman’s vision is a bit more pragmatic—to have a firm “more heavily embedded in client relationships,” he said.

The combination with Sutherland caps off Eversheds’ rapid expansion since it formed in 1988 from a four-way merger among regional British firms. Over the next decade, it snapped up a slew of other U.K. firms—branding itself Eversheds in 1995—and then started merging and forming alliances with firms in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. A U.S. presence had been the missing piece to its global footprint.

Sutherland, by contrast, has grown more slowly and maintained its name since 1954.

Eversheds Sutherland has established a six-partner management team overseen by a 10-partner board, both headed by Wasserman and Ranson, to focus on client opportunities and international expansion, with equal representation from each legacy firm.

The co-leaders said that the firms, which have worked together on client matters for about a decade, share about 25 of their respective top 100 clients already—one reason that the deal made sense. Shared clients include GE, Siemens, The Coca-Cola Co., Microsoft, Facebook and TE Connectivity.

Making It Work

The expanded footprint from combining firms across continents does not necessarily mean more business will follow, particularly amid economic uncertainty from the U.K.’s looming exit from the European Union and U.S. political tumult. Case in point: the disintegration of SJ Berwin, the British arm of King & Wood Malleson’s (KWM) triple-combination of U.K., Asian and Australian firms.

KWM is structured as a verein, in which geographic members keep their finances separate, similar to the Eversheds Sutherland structure.

“Getting married is the easy part,” Ranson said. “Making the marriage work is the hard part.”

One problem for SJ Berwin’s partners was that KWM’s compensation system discouraged sharing clients with partners from the other member firms in the verein, according to a post-mortem published in The American Lawyer.

“It was not about dollars at the end of the day. It was a culture problem,” said Wasserman of SJ Berwin’s demise. “That’s why we’ve spent so much time putting our people together. … It’s about having people aligned in what they do.”

“Having a common culture with shared values is absolutely essential to making this work,” Ranson said.

Wasserman and Ranson said their firms have roughly similar compensation systems, which are “holistic” rather than formula-based, taking into account partners’ contributions beyond annual billings.

For good measure, the U.S. and overseas partnerships will contribute to a joint bonus pool that their respective executive committees can use to reward partners for cross-selling and other cooperative behaviors.

If the firms succeed in strengthening existing client relationships through the combination, Ranson added, “more people will get more reward.” So far, he added, “the client reception has been universally positive.”

Commensurate with Eversheds’ greater size, its revenue is higher than Sutherland’s, but the two firms have similar profits per equity partner.

Eversheds reported revenue of £405.5 million for the 2015-2016 fiscal year—$503.4 million at the current exchange rate—and ranks No. 13 by revenue in Legal Week’s UK Top 50 Firms.

Sutherland reported $301 million in revenue in 2015, ranking No. 107 in the Am Law 200.

Sutherland’s PPP is a bit higher, at $1.02 million per equity partner, compared with £742,000 or $921,000 per equity partner for Eversheds at the current exchange rate.

Eversheds reported 118 equity partners in 2015, and Sutherland had 86, according to The American Lawyer.

Getting Acquainted

Eversheds and Sutherland are investing a lot of time and money in getting to know each other, since the whole point of the combination is to “serve clients more broadly and deeply with our practice offerings,” Wasserman said. Wasserman and Ranson have been visiting top clients together over the past six weeks. Just last week, they said, they met with GE in Boston and another major client to introduce the in-house lawyers to people from both firms. Wasserman said all the clients they’ve talked to are reporting pressure to contain costs and reduce the number of outside firms they use, so they are seeking billing arrangements that add value.

Eversheds Sutherland has scheduled its first joint partner meeting for June in London. Over the past six weeks, both partnerships have already been convening large-scale gatherings for key practices, such as the energy groups, which held a joint 100-lawyer meeting.

The insurance and tax teams have also met, gathering outside of Atlanta at the Reynolds Plantation at Lake Oconee, and so have the firms’ private investment funds partners. The real estate partners met in London two weeks ago, and the litigation teams met in Ireland last week.

Other partners have been introducing themselves via video conference, which Wasserman estimated accounts for about half the meetings.

Ranson and Wasserman, who are both experienced leaders at their respective firms, have seats on both the six-member management team running the combined firm and the 10-person board that oversees it.

Ranson joined Eversheds in 1990 and has been the firm’s managing partner since 2009. He will become chief executive on May 1, succeeding Bryan Hughes, for a four-year term. Before becoming managing partner, he led the firm’s real estate litigation group and real estate practice.

Wasserman, a transactional lawyer, joined Sutherland in 1987. He’s served as managing partner for 12 years and was just re-elected to another four-year term.

The other Eversheds partners joining Ranson on the six-partner management team are Keith Froud and Ian Gray, who will become, respectively, Eversheds’ executive partner and managing partner in May.

Sutherland’s other management team members are Atlanta partner Victor Haley, a timberland transaction specialist who heads the firm’s real estate practice, and Thomas Gick in Washington, who advises insurance companies on tax matters. Cynthia Krus, a corporate partner in Washington on Sutherland’s executive committee, will replace Gick in April.

The Eversheds partners on the global board are Ranson, Froud and Paul Smith, the firm’s chairman, plus two rotating members from, respectively, Eversheds’ international board and its regional managing partners.

The four Sutherland partners joining Wasserman on the global board are Ben Clark, who has an energy-focused corporate practice in Houston, Atlanta corporate partner Bob Pile, who heads the payments team, and Atlanta tax partner Eric Tresh, with Gick to be followed by Krus in April.

Copyright Daily Report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Global firm Eversheds Sutherland made its formal debut on Wednesday, unveiling a new logo and website and cementing the most significant transatlantic tie-up since Norton Rose combined with Fulbright & Jaworski in 2013.

The equity partnerships of Atlanta-based Sutherland Asbill & Brennan and U.K. firm Eversheds voted Dec. 16 for the deal to create a 2,300-lawyer firm, with about 1,400 from Eversheds , another 500 from its affiliated firms internationally and 400 from Sutherland.


Lee Ranson

The two firms will share governance equally, with Eversheds ‘ CEO-elect Lee Ranson and Sutherland managing partner Mark Wasserman as co-CEOs.

Ranson said the impetus for the combination is to expand the combined firm’s market share with existing clients and, hopefully, gain new ones in an era of flat demand and increased competition for work.

Over the next five years, Ranson said, “I think there will be lots of law firms that don’t prosper, given the consolidation going on,” adding that in-house departments are continuing to whittle their roster of outside firms in response to pressures from corporate procurement departments. The question for Eversheds Sutherland, he said, will be, “Do we have a model that can take market share?” The firms’ partners wasted no time introducing themselves and their clients to each other as soon as the partnerships voted in December to combine.

“The beauty of the structure, and what we’re doing, is that we don’t have to worry about merging IT and financial functions,” Wasserman said. “The sole focus the last two months has been—what can we do client-wise?”

The combined entity is an English company limited by guarantee, an umbrella structure in which members’ finances are kept separate and which does not provide legal services.

The two firms will retain their existing internal governance structures, Wasserman said, and they will pool resources for marketing and further expansion. They will also contribute to a shared pool to reward partners for cross-selling and client development.

Wasserman and Ranson said the firm had no immediate plans to open new offices. They are “jointly looking at places our clients need us to be,” Wasserman said.

Even though the firms have separate profit pools, Wasserman said, “We can contribute to investments together without violating the tax structure,” again by using a shared fund.

“We have 61 offices in 29 countries from this combination,” Ranson added, “so it’s not like we have to open a new one immediately.”

Combined Yet Separate

The deal allows both firms to expand their global reach without giving up much control. Eversheds gains lawyers in the United States, where it didn’t have any, and Sutherland gains lawyers around the world.

Ranson’s goal is for Eversheds Sutherland is ambitious—to be the “leading global law firm” in five years, he said. Wasserman’s vision is a bit more pragmatic—to have a firm “more heavily embedded in client relationships,” he said.

The combination with Sutherland caps off Eversheds ‘ rapid expansion since it formed in 1988 from a four-way merger among regional British firms. Over the next decade, it snapped up a slew of other U.K. firms—branding itself Eversheds in 1995—and then started merging and forming alliances with firms in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. A U.S. presence had been the missing piece to its global footprint.

Sutherland, by contrast, has grown more slowly and maintained its name since 1954.

Eversheds Sutherland has established a six-partner management team overseen by a 10-partner board, both headed by Wasserman and Ranson, to focus on client opportunities and international expansion, with equal representation from each legacy firm.

The co-leaders said that the firms, which have worked together on client matters for about a decade, share about 25 of their respective top 100 clients already—one reason that the deal made sense. Shared clients include GE, Siemens, The Coca-Cola Co., Microsoft , Facebook and TE Connectivity.

Making It Work

The expanded footprint from combining firms across continents does not necessarily mean more business will follow, particularly amid economic uncertainty from the U.K.’s looming exit from the European Union and U.S. political tumult. Case in point: the disintegration of SJ Berwin , the British arm of King & Wood Malleson’s (KWM) triple-combination of U.K., Asian and Australian firms.

KWM is structured as a verein, in which geographic members keep their finances separate, similar to the Eversheds Sutherland structure.

“Getting married is the easy part,” Ranson said. “Making the marriage work is the hard part.”

One problem for SJ Berwin ‘s partners was that KWM’s compensation system discouraged sharing clients with partners from the other member firms in the verein, according to a post-mortem published in The American Lawyer.

“It was not about dollars at the end of the day. It was a culture problem,” said Wasserman of SJ Berwin ‘s demise. “That’s why we’ve spent so much time putting our people together. … It’s about having people aligned in what they do.”

“Having a common culture with shared values is absolutely essential to making this work,” Ranson said.

Wasserman and Ranson said their firms have roughly similar compensation systems, which are “holistic” rather than formula-based, taking into account partners’ contributions beyond annual billings.

For good measure, the U.S. and overseas partnerships will contribute to a joint bonus pool that their respective executive committees can use to reward partners for cross-selling and other cooperative behaviors.

If the firms succeed in strengthening existing client relationships through the combination, Ranson added, “more people will get more reward.” So far, he added, “the client reception has been universally positive.”

Commensurate with Eversheds ‘ greater size, its revenue is higher than Sutherland’s, but the two firms have similar profits per equity partner.

Eversheds reported revenue of £405.5 million for the 2015-2016 fiscal year—$503.4 million at the current exchange rate—and ranks No. 13 by revenue in Legal Week’s UK Top 50 Firms.

Sutherland reported $301 million in revenue in 2015, ranking No. 107 in the Am Law 200 .

Sutherland’s PPP is a bit higher, at $1.02 million per equity partner, compared with £742,000 or $921,000 per equity partner for Eversheds at the current exchange rate.

Eversheds reported 118 equity partners in 2015, and Sutherland had 86, according to The American Lawyer.

Getting Acquainted

Eversheds and Sutherland are investing a lot of time and money in getting to know each other, since the whole point of the combination is to “serve clients more broadly and deeply with our practice offerings,” Wasserman said. Wasserman and Ranson have been visiting top clients together over the past six weeks. Just last week, they said, they met with GE in Boston and another major client to introduce the in-house lawyers to people from both firms. Wasserman said all the clients they’ve talked to are reporting pressure to contain costs and reduce the number of outside firms they use, so they are seeking billing arrangements that add value.

Eversheds Sutherland has scheduled its first joint partner meeting for June in London. Over the past six weeks, both partnerships have already been convening large-scale gatherings for key practices, such as the energy groups, which held a joint 100-lawyer meeting.

The insurance and tax teams have also met, gathering outside of Atlanta at the Reynolds Plantation at Lake Oconee, and so have the firms’ private investment funds partners. The real estate partners met in London two weeks ago, and the litigation teams met in Ireland last week.

Other partners have been introducing themselves via video conference, which Wasserman estimated accounts for about half the meetings.

Ranson and Wasserman, who are both experienced leaders at their respective firms, have seats on both the six-member management team running the combined firm and the 10-person board that oversees it.

Ranson joined Eversheds in 1990 and has been the firm’s managing partner since 2009. He will become chief executive on May 1, succeeding Bryan Hughes, for a four-year term. Before becoming managing partner, he led the firm’s real estate litigation group and real estate practice.

Wasserman, a transactional lawyer, joined Sutherland in 1987. He’s served as managing partner for 12 years and was just re-elected to another four-year term.

The other Eversheds partners joining Ranson on the six-partner management team are Keith Froud and Ian Gray, who will become, respectively, Eversheds ‘ executive partner and managing partner in May.

Sutherland’s other management team members are Atlanta partner Victor Haley, a timberland transaction specialist who heads the firm’s real estate practice, and Thomas Gick in Washington, who advises insurance companies on tax matters. Cynthia Krus, a corporate partner in Washington on Sutherland’s executive committee, will replace Gick in April.

The Eversheds partners on the global board are Ranson, Froud and Paul Smith, the firm’s chairman, plus two rotating members from, respectively, Eversheds ‘ international board and its regional managing partners.

The four Sutherland partners joining Wasserman on the global board are Ben Clark, who has an energy-focused corporate practice in Houston, Atlanta corporate partner Bob Pile, who heads the payments team, and Atlanta tax partner Eric Tresh, with Gick to be followed by Krus in April.

Copyright Daily Report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.