Eversheds Sutherland Takes Stock One Year After Merger

There are only 34 law firms in the world that gross more than $1 billion annually.

That count just increased by one, according to an announcement this week.

Eversheds Sutherland was able to pass that milestone through a tack that firms have increasingly adopted over the past decade: a merger.

The firm posted a $1.03 billion result from its 2,400 lawyers around the world, but there is still one key financial metric missing – profits per partner.

When the firms merged – Atlanta-based Sutherland Asbill & Brennan and London-based Eversheds – profits per partner in each firm hovered at around $1 million each. No updated information was forthcoming on that figure, which is typically regarded as the key metric for firm success.

But passing the $1 billion revenue mark places Eversheds Sutherland in a rarefied club.

The American Lawyer each year issues a Global 100 list of firms by revenue. In 2016, fewer than three dozen law firms had surpassed the billion-dollar mark. Other global firms in this group include DLA Piper, Clifford Chance, Linklaters and Dentons.

Last year’s transatlantic merger forming Eversheds Sutherland is part of a continuing pattern of consolidations driven by the need to smoothly and quickly service international clients.

Eversheds has been able to rapidly build on its geographic expansion, said Mark Wasserman, the firm’s co-chief executive officer, by broadening the services it can offer to existing clients.

“When we began talking to clients, our conversations were a lot broader. They were enthusiastic about the increased services our combined firm was able to offer,” he said, in an interview. “For example, we had clients with a lot of business interests in Russia, so we opened offices last year in St. Petersburg and Moscow to accommodate that.”

The merged firm’s largest concentration is in the Middle East, with offices in UAE, Dubai, Doha and Saudi Arabia, he said. And Asia, where the firm has offices in Beijing and Shanghai, and Singapore, has been the source of more energy trading business, he added.

After the firm’s tax practice, which is its largest specialty in the United States, Wasserman said the firm’s largest practices are corporate, especially financial services and corporate insurance and insurance regulatory issues, and energy.

The practice that has grown the most is litigation, he noted, because more clients are “facing multijurisdictional issues, along with investigations – and defense to investigations – and regulatory issues.”

The key to such growth, he said, has been collaboration and collegiality, which can fall by the wayside in such mergers as a result of feuding teams, competing over clients and credit origination.

Wasserman said that one way the firm has ensured a sense of unity has been “getting our lawyers physically together so they all know each other.”

The firm has also adopted programs to send lawyers, particularly younger ones, to offices in locations like Dubai or Doha so they can become more familiar with the firm’s entire operations.

In the past year, Eversheds Sutherland has had some large clients, such as Turkish Airlines, Shell and DB Engineering and Consulting, a German infrastructure company, which bid successfully to build California’s first high-speed railway. In addition to its offices in Russia, the firm has opened offices in Dusseldorf and Luxembourg, for a total of 66 offices in 32 locations worldwide.

And the firm may not be done with expansion. Wasserman noted that it had interest in expanding in Sacramento, where it has a tax practice, and in Chicago because of the number of industrial companies it represents, he said.

In addition to its offices, Eversheds Sutherland also has a network of more than 200 related law firms, including formal alliances in Latin America, Africa and that Asia Pacific.

The firm’s financial results, which were not audited, were 5 percent higher than 2016 – when the firms were separate – and include combined results from Eversheds Sutherland (International), Eversheds Sutherland (U.S.) and members of Eversheds Sutherland (Europe).

As for profits per partner, Wasserman said, ”that will come out later,” but “we will be doing better, but I’m not saying by how much.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Olson at egolson1@gmail.com.

To contact the editors on this story: Casey Sullivan at csullivan@bloomberglaw.com and John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com.