Eversheds Sutherland management laid out their priorities for the year ahead to about 700 partners at a firmwide partnership conference held in New York last month: High on the agenda was a plan for the firm to grow in the United States.
The firm, now almost 18 months old following last February’s union of U.K.-based Eversheds and the U.S. firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, has already built on the merger with a series of office openings and team hires. But further U.S. expansion through a domestic merger is still one option firmly on the table, co-CEO Mark Wasserman told The American Lawyer’s U.K. sibling publication Legal Week.
“We’re still looking hard at the same geographies, including Chicago and California. It’s unlikely we would be opening an office with a single person—it would be either about finding the right firm or finding the right team,” Wasserman said. “We’re constantly in various conversations, although nothing imminent is set to happen.”
Two weeks after the conference, Wasserman and co-CEO Lee Ranson are reviewing how their strategy and aims for the business are unfolding. The duo have previously stressed their determination to create a common culture throughout the merged partnerships, and the firm is currently seeking feedback from partners on its “purpose and values,” which it intends to announce to the entire business in September.
“We really want a sense of unity and to make sure there’s commonality to our purpose,” Wasserman said. “We want everyone in our business to have a reason to do what we do every day, aside from financial success.”
Maximizing client relationships has also been a key priority for the firm, with everyone in Eversheds’ international arm undergoing training about meeting client needs, along with a significant proportion of the firm’s U.S. business.
“We’ve spent a significant amount of time and energy making sure client partners are consistent in the way they perform in their role,” Ranson said. “The focus is making sure that relationships don’t get siloed into practice lines. We want to encourage much more collaborative approaches—clients say they want the relationship partner to be able to deal with any challenges, but also point to people within the business that are subject matter experts.”
The pair say that this approach has led to 19 new global client wins since the merger went live last February, as well as 330 joint pitch opportunities since then. Earlier this year, the firm announced combined revenues of $1.03 billion (£700 million) in its first firmwide financial results since the transatlantic tie-up—a figure aggregated from the 2017 performance of the firm’s U.S. and international LLPs, as well as its non-integrated network of European firms.
Technology was also a key part of the conference, with a significant amount of time spent on discussing what systems the firm should be developing, according to Ranson.
The firm’s most recent adoption is the crowdsourcing app Idea Drop. The platform, which has a similar feel to well-known social media platforms, allows users to “drop” ideas that other users can comment on, share, like and rate. Users can also submit a “challenge” after identifying a specific need or issue that could be solved by canvassing ideas from the wider firm.
Ideas are monitored to ensure the best ones are captured and actioned, and users win points based on activity and feedback from others. Ranson and Wasserman are currently tied in eighth place. The partnership is piloting usage of the app, and intends to launch it to all 5,000 Eversheds Sutherland employees in September.
The pair also want to make greater strides in diversity within the business after the firm revamped its gender strategy earlier this year, introducing a target of a 30 percent female partnership by 2021 across its European and U.S. arms.
The firm’s international leadership team is meeting in London next week and is set to discuss minority lawyer career development within its ranks.
“It’s about getting into the weeds of understanding why percentages of [minority] lawyers aren’t sustained throughout the business,” Ranson said. “We’re looking closely at each stage of career development.”