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Eversheds eyes larger California presence following long-awaited Chicago opening

Eversheds Sutherland is opening an office in the ‘very competitive’ Chicago market with the hire of two partners, and has plans to bulk out in California, too.

The firm announced today (29 May) it was opening its first new US office since the 2017 tie-up of Eversheds and US outfit Sutherland Asbill & Brennan. Chicago is the firm’s seventh US office, joining Atlanta, Austin, Houston, New York, Sacramento and Washington DC.

Real estate partners Marc Benjamin and Susan Kai join Eversheds in June from White & Case and Kirkland & Ellis respectively. Benjamin, who will head the Chicago office, only joined White & Case in October, 2018, as part of a six-partner move from Pircher, Nichols & Meeks, while Kai was made up to partner at Kirkland just eight months ago. The pair will be joined by Eversheds litigation partner Robert Owen, who is relocating from New York.

The Chicago office will initially focus on real estate, M&A and litigation, targeting the diversified industrials, technology, media and telecommunications, financial institutions and energy sectors. Co-chief executive Mark Wasserman says the office will be a focal point for both Midwest-based clients and clients engaged in activities there, of which the firm has more than 100.

He told Legal Business the firm had been looking at opening in Chicago for many years but the merger had brought that back into focus. He commented: ‘Post the combination with Eversheds we’ve had two great years, but we were thinking, what is the next thing we need to do to strengthen in the US? That brought us back to Chicago.’

The firm had no set targets for headcount at the office, although Wasserman said they would look to add lawyers in corporate, tax, real estate and litigation. The New York office had grown to about 60 lawyers in the last decade or so – with some more hires due to be announced this week – without ever having a specific goal for its size, and Wasserman was confident the firm would be able to attract talent.

‘It’s a very, very competitive market,’ he told Legal Business. ’Next to New York, you could argue it is the most competitive.’

Having a larger presence in California, where the firm has an office in Sacramento, is the next target. Wasserman said that could include San Francisco, San Diego or Los Angeles, which he argued would be a good fit for the firm’s Asian and European practices as well.

‘We think we should be large in California as well. That’s the next logical place for us.’

Earlier this week, the firm also hired Sarah Paul as a litigation partner to its New York office. Paul was most recently an assistant United States attorney for the Southern District of New York in the Criminal Division, investigating and prosecuting financial crimes.

Eversheds’ global revenue for 2018 rose 10% to $1.175bn. For the 2017/18 financial year, the firm’s International LLP accounts for the non-US business showed revenue increasing 14% to £496m, with the UK playing a prominent role following a 14% turnover hike to generate £396m.