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Hats in the ring: candidates emerge for Eversheds Sutherland chair contest

Three UK partners at Eversheds Sutherland, including the Manchester senior partner, will vie for the role of chair after Leeds litigator Paul Smith’s four-year term comes to an end later this year.

The partners who plan to stand for election are joint head of energy and infrastructure Robert Pitcher, joint UK financial services head Pamela Thompson and Manchester senior partner Michael Clavell-Bate.
It is understood that the election is due to kick off within the next week although there are no official candidates at this stage.

Paul Smith, who was the firm’s former Tyco relationship partner, took over from then-incumbent chairman John Heaps in December 2013 in a contested election against Pitcher. Heaps was elected chairman in May 2010 for a four-year term and chose not to stand for re-election following turning 60 in Autumn 2013.

The election for a new chair comes at a pivotal time for the UK side of Eversheds Sutherland, which has undergone a year of significant change. In February, Eversheds entered into a tie-up with US firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan and so far this year the firm has opened a host of new offices in locations including Luxembourg, Moscow, St Petersburg and Dusseldorf.

The firm also posted its best growth in revenue terms for some time although profit per equity partner (PEP) dipped slightly. Turnover was up 8% to £438.6m for 2016/17, just eclipsing the 7% growth achieved on the top line in 2015/16. PEP now stands at £725,000, down £17,000 or 2% from the previous financial year but is up 16% from the £642,000 posted in 2011/12. Overall, Eversheds’ top line has grown 20% in the last five years, from £366m.

Meanwhile, it is understood that the firm’s co-chief executives Lee Ranson and US counterpart Mark Wasserman are due to unveil the combined firm’s new strategy over the next couple of weeks. The bottom line of that strategy is to be recognised as a global law firm by 2020.

For more on Eversheds Sutherland’s frenetic year and strategic plans, read Legal Business 100: Case study – Eversheds Sutherland