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‘An element of control’: Market reacts as Eversheds confirms talks with Atlanta-based Sutherland

It is no secret that Eversheds has long wanted a US tie-up, with the partnership heavily backing the strategy in 2014. However apart from a few well-placed external and internal sources, most of the partnership and important clients this side of the Atlantic had no idea the firm was so close to a deal with Atlanta-based full service firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan.

‘It was out there but very quietly’, said a rival managing partner of the combination, which isn’t going to include operational or financial integration between Eversheds and Sutherland, but will include a new entity called Eversheds Sutherland, overseen by a global board and with equal representation from each firm.

However, Eversheds 2015/16 revenue of £405.5m ($548m) far outstrips Sutherland’s $300m top-line. Meanwhile profit per equity partner (PEP) at Eversheds for this financial year was £742,000 ($1m), compared to $1m at Sutherland.

According to one partner, the combination suits Eversheds, which preferred a US deal where the firm kept control by being the bigger partner.

‘It was always an intention that as a minimum it had to be a combination of equals, preferably Eversheds being the bigger of the two. It just gives an element of control to it.’

However, although another internal source said that since the announcement yesterday new client opportunities are already coming through, one trophy client of the firm, who also sits on Eversheds client advisory board, did not know the firm was in talks with Sutherland.

‘I didn’t know and it could be interesting, we will wait and see. I am quite ambivalent about it actually. It’s not a law firm that we have used. Although I used them in a previous job that I had and actually worked very effectively with them. As far as I’m concerned as long as it doesn’t impact on what they can offer me in Europe, I am quite relaxed.’