Running a 2,400 lawyer firm with 66 offices in 32 countries means a lot of travel.
Lee Ranson, the London-based co-CEO of Eversheds Sutherland, was in Atlanta this week for a global executive team meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Mark Wasserman, and the team’s other four members.
The Daily Report dropped by Eversheds Sutherland’s Midtown office at 999 Peachtree St. to meet him in person.
The global executive team, with three members from each legacy firm, governs Eversheds Sutherland, which was formed from Eversheds’ Feb. 1 combination with Atlanta-based Sutherland Asbill & Brennan.
Ranson and Wasserman said the team meets every month, usually alternating between in-person and video meetings. For the in-person meetings, they rotate between Eversheds Sutherland’s offices in the U.S. and London.
Ranson and Wasserman often travel together, as they did last week for the grand opening of the firm’s 80-lawyer Singapore office, Eversheds Harry Elias, which had been in the works for a couple of years. (The firm also gained an office in Brunei.) Eversheds Sutherland has continued to grow since the combination, adding Russia offices in Moscow and St. Petersburg and another in Luxembourg earlier this month.
Like Wasserman at Sutherland, Ranson has been at legacy firm Eversheds for his entire career. He started out as a litigator in 1990, then led the firm’s real estate litigation group and real estate practice before becoming managing partner eight years ago. Ranson was unanimously elected Eversheds’ chief executive last year, effective May 1.
He is based in Eversheds Sutherland’s London office but makes his home in Manchester with his wife and three children, aged 15 to 22.
Eversheds was already an international firm with offices in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa before the combination with Sutherland, which adds a U.S. operation. How much do you travel?
I haven’t really been anywhere but an airplane for the last week and a half. I was in Singapore with Mark all last week for the opening of our Singapore merger office [Eversheds Harry Elias], and then Portugal over the weekend for a long-scheduled family trip—and then Atlanta on Monday.
We on the senior management team do travel a lot—but we also do a lot by phone and video. I’m not always in the air. Eversheds Sutherland has an Asia regional managing partner and one for the Middle East, so there isn’t the need for Mark and I to be there every week. That would be ridiculous. We wouldn’t get anything done! Part of our role is to see people in the offices, but we’ve got to make sure we’re spending enough time on the strategy stuff and the client stuff. What that means is when we get to a place, it’s a full-on schedule—seeing staff, lawyers, clients, making speeches. That’s the job.
And in places like Asia, we want to make sure we are highly visible. Asia, the Middle East and other places in the network are really important to us because they are emerging markets where there are growth opportunities and client demand but at a nascent stage.
How many frequent flyer miles have you racked up in the last year?
I don’t know. We don’t allow partners to collect air miles [at legacy Eversheds]. We put them in a central pot and let partners use them.
“We do not do that in the U.S.—and we have no plans to change,” Wasserman hastened to add.
What is a typical day like for you, running an extensive and growing international firm?
There is a people element to this role. I spend a lot of time traveling to offices. Another element is clients—meetings with them is a consistent theme of any day. And the strategic element—the nuts and bolts stuff, to make sure things are working.
Woven in the mix with this is location—where Mark and I are when we do the job. We want to be visible. We use technology to alleviate some travel, but what you can’t replicate is being there in person. That’s why we went to Singapore last week for the opening reception. The best email I received after that trip was from our receptionist in Singapore, thanking me for my presentation [on the firm's strategic direction]. She said: You and Mark have really helped me understand the business and what we’re trying to achieve.
Where do you go most often?
Asia and the Middle East mostly. One week of any month is travel. I’ll be in Atlanta from Monday through Thursday night, then I’m off to the Middle East in a few weeks. We have seven offices in the Middle East and I’ll be visiting Doha, Jordan and Dubai.
How often do you come to Atlanta?
I’ve been to Atlanta a bunch of times, first in the run-up to the deal and now at least once every three months. I like it more and more every time I visit, as I get to know the city better and meet more clients.
Do you fly Delta?
Yes, from Manchester there is a Virgin Atlantic-Delta route. I’m happy to fly Delta. Given Atlanta’s size, it’s a fast transfer time getting from the airport into the city, compared to places like London, New York and Beijing.
“Delta certainly benefits from the combination. Clearly, we have more people flying all over the place,” Wasserman added.
So have you seen any of the city on this visit, Lee, outside of meetings?
I went out with Mark and three of our partners last night [Monday] for dinner at St. Cecilia’s in Buckhead, and it was a really nice evening. It was like we’d known each other for years.
You can have clients and strategies in common, but if people don’t want to work with each other, no great strategic initiative can overcome that.
We have tickets for the PGA Tour Championship [at East Lake Golf Club], and we’re going to an Atlanta United match on Wednesday night.
Who’s your football team in the U.K.? You live in Manchester, but I don’t want to assume.
Ranson: [Laughs.] It’s Nottingham Forest actually. My family is from there, so that’s always been my team.