Legal Business

‘Ambition, confidence and opportunity’: Eversheds selects new members of its senior leadership team

Eversheds Sutherland has announced several new appointments to its senior leadership team across its practice groups and business services teams.

Succeeding Paul Worth, who is retiring at the end of December following 21 years at the firm, Mark Davenport will take on the role of litigation and dispute management practice group head. Davenport led the commercial dispute resolution team for the last three years. Taking on Davenport’s role as head of CDR is Lisa Barge, the former head of real estate litigation, whose boots will in turn be filled by Will Densham.

Meanwhile, from 1 November, James Trafford will take over from Gurjit Atwal, who has decided to step down after four years in the role of real estate practice group head. Atwal will continue to be a part of the real estate leadership team, as well taking on a new role as the firm’s social mobility partner sponsor.

Finally, Rob Bullough has joined Eversheds as the firm’s chief property officer, taking over from Paul Dunn who is retiring from before the new year after 11 years of service at the firm. Bullough arrives at the firm from UBS, where he spent the last 17 years working in leadership positions within the real estate team.

‘It will be different,’ said Trafford in an interview with Legal Business, explaining what his appointment to the role of real estate practice group head means for his day-to-day. ‘I will be responsible for co-leading our global real estate practice and forming our strategy. I have had various management roles before so I can build on that experience. I have spent 20 years in our real estate team building and leading our teams. I see myself spending more time with our partner group and I will be involved in developing our strategy.’

He added: ‘The last few years I have been leading the financial aspects of our business, which is a really important part of the practice head role. I was also involved in the recruitment of lateral hires in Dubai, Paris and Edinburgh, where I got to understand those markets really well and appreciate them as areas of growth for our business.’

Asked how he will split his time between fee-earning client work and management, Trafford responded: ‘I will maintain my client partner roles. We are very keen for practice heads to retain client-facing involvement. We are better at leading our teams if we do, as clients lie at the heart of everything. I am keen to understand what drives them and their pressures.

‘I will spend less time leading projects and working as a fee earner though. There is a long lifespan for the kind of energy and infrastructure work I do, so going forward my time is going to be weighted heavily towards management.’

Trafford detailed his approach to taking over the role from his predecessor and making it his own: ‘I have spent a while working with the two preceding practice heads and I have tried to learn from them. I have a clear understanding of what the role entails, which I see as a link between the partners and the executive team. Communication is super important, and I also care deeply about the next generation – I want to foster the right environment for them to progress.’

Probed further on what his appointment represents for the firm and its overall strategy, Trafford replied: ‘It means that real estate is core to our firm. I wouldn’t want to do the job if that wasn’t the case. We offer solutions to complex real estate mandates and we are well-placed to win and deliver competitive work. We spend a lot of time developing a one team working culture which works really well, and I have been encouraged by other firms who see us as a competitive threat to their business.

‘In three words, I would say our practice group strategy is: Ambition, confidence and opportunity.’

Legal Business

LB100 – firm profile – Eversheds Sutherland: Beyond the soundbites

Having achieved a steady rise in revenue over the past five years, can Eversheds Sutherland maintain its place in the top ten of the LB100?

‘I can’t think of a soundbite for the firm,’ dismisses one finance head at a peer firm when canvassed for his view on Eversheds Sutherland’s place in the market.

Legal Business

‘No-one has managed to build out of the key locations’: Eversheds’ Ranson discusses Asia strategy following KWM tie-up

Following the announcement last week that Eversheds Sutherland has entered into a formal cooperation agreement with Chinese firm King & Wood Mallesons (KWM), Legal Business spoke to Eversheds’ chief executive officer Lee Ranson about the arrangement and the implications for both firms.

Under the terms of the deal, KWM will exclusively refer all its clients requiring legal advice in the UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa and South America to Eversheds, while Eversheds will refer all its international clients in need of PRC legal counsel solely to KWM.

Ranson clarified the types of clients that the arrangement gives Eversheds access to: ‘It opens up all of KWM’s outbound work from China into Europe, the Middle East, South America and Africa. KWM is a very sophisticated firm in China and there is a close affinity between its practice group structure and our own.

‘There is an overlap between Eversheds and KWM with some joint clients, as well as a lot of clients that we haven’t been instructed by yet in all the main sectors we operate in, such as TMT, financial institutions and  energy, as well as large corporates who are involved in cross border M&A. These are prime examples where there will be overlaps and opportunity for us both.’

On the rationale behind the agreement, Ranson said: ‘We are a global law firm, so not only does this agreement strengthen our global offering, but it also strengthens our Asian offering. If we have clients inbound to China, we will now work with KWM to deal with the local PRC aspects. KWM’s mainland Chinese offering is substantially better than any other international firm operating in that market, which is becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated with new regulations that impact how deals are structured, so this deal has strengthened our ability to act for clients in the Chinese market.’

Ranson gave an indication of when talks regarding the agreement began: ‘Several months ago. We have been working with KWM to see the extent of the opportunity, as well as the cooperation agreement in the background. There haven’t been intensive negotiations for all that time.’

He elaborated on how international firms build a foothold in China: ‘No-one has managed to build out of the key locations and gain a foothold that way. Dentons has a local tie-up, but beyond that it is a small presence there for international firms.’

Asked why KWM wanted to enter into a cooperation agreement with Eversheds, Ranson responded: ‘Because of the depth of our relationships and offices across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South America. KWM had relatively small offices prior to this deal, now it has a deal with one of the largest firms internationally. It is attracted to the sophistication of the offering and what we bring in terms of servicing its clients across the various sectors and practice areas.’

He continued: ‘We are a full-service law firm and have very developed capabilities in many jurisdictions that the Chinese are interested in, such as the Middle East, which Chinese investment is increasingly focusing on. To put it into perspective, we have seven offices in the Middle East, but before this deal KWM had one in Dubai. KWM wants to be able to carry out deals outside of China so that it can strengthen its own relationship with its clients and sell a deeper offering across Europe.’

As part of the new agreement, KWM will terminate all its operations in the UK, Europe and the Middle East by 31 October 2024. It is anticipated that KWM’s partners and staff will be able to integrate with Eversheds’ relevant offices ‘subject to practice needs and other considerations’.

Probed on the long-term logistics of the agreement, Ranson confirmed: ‘The intention is that KWM will effectively come out of its six locations in Europe, including London. We said a longstop date at the end of October 2024, a number of offices may be sooner than that.’

On whether KWM and Eversheds, which does not currently have and a presence in Australia, have any plans on expanding the deal to other parts of Asia and Australia through KWM’s Hong Kong and Australian Vereins, Ranson said: ‘Not at the moment. We are focused on the deal we have agreed, which is the largest agreement of its type, and we are going to put a lot of resources and infrastructure into it so that is creates as many opportunities for us and KWM as possible.’

Ranson summarised: ‘It goes back to the question of how do global law firms ensure they have true global coverage? The Asian market is evolving, and firms must come up with ways to create a client offering that reflects the opportunities and complexities in the various markets.’

Legal Business

‘The legal industry isn’t immune’: Profits rise again at Eversheds following record performance in 2022

Eversheds Sutherland has revealed a 17% increase in its net profit from £150.3m to £175.2m in this year’s financial results. The rate of growth is six percentage points lower than last year’s bumper 23% spike, reflecting the challenges which law firms currently face. Revenue also grew from £678.4m to £730.9m, matching last year’s 8% rise.

In contrast to the significant 26% jump in profit per equity partner (PEP) in 2022, this year’s performance shows a far more modest 4% increase from £1.2m to £1.29m, despite the significantly higher rate of net profit growth.

Asked why the rate of PEP growth slowed down this year, chief executive Lee Ranson (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘We have had two record years of promotions of equity partners into the business, so the number of partners has risen. PEP is a basic equation; we are investing in people and the future of the business, so the last two years reflect lots of lateral hires and promotion rounds.’

He added: ‘If you look at one year in isolation, there are always factors such as retirements and people coming in, but if you look at the overall pattern of the last five years, everything has gone up. It is not always a straight line, but the general direction of travel remains the same.’

Ranson explained which practice areas brought in the most income for the firm: ‘It has been one of those years where the breadth of the business has been a major positive for us. In the previous financial year, we saw the big transactional side of the business generate income, which this year was not as busy. However, pensions, labour and real estate all performed extremely well this year.’

He elaborated further: ‘The UK is still performing very well as it always does. The Middle Eastern practice was a standout this year, which has involved international offices rather than just a regional play. We are seeing that part of the business mature now.’

Referring to the previous year’s transactional success, he noted: ‘We did experience a decrease from the heights of last year. How quickly it recovers remains to be seen against the backdrop of rising interest rates. Our transactional team remains busy, but the industry isn’t immune to wider political and economic situations.’

Ranson also spoke about the firm’s recruitment strategy: ‘We have hired 15 lateral partners over the last year – M&A, funds and finance are key areas of our recruitment strategy, but not exclusively so. The key hire of Patrick Gerry from Ashurst as senior real estate partner in Paris has helped to connect the international offering we have, and continue our growth in Europe. Almost immediately, Patrick was involved in a multijurisdictional deal which he introduced through his own client base that he brought with him.’

Regarding the firm’s investment plans, Ranson commented: ‘We have previously announced that we put aside a £50m fund for investment, which we don’t see the need to increase while we are working on existing projects. We are looking at technological investment in things like artificial intelligence, which we are debating on as a team. We are confident that these will be dealt with by our existing cash flow.’

Asked whether the timing of the Frankfurt office launch in January was unfortunate, given the current deals market, he responded: ‘You make your decisions about where you want to be. We decided we wanted to be in Frankfurt. It isn’t a one-year investment, and we remain very excited about the practice.’

As for the next financial year, Ranson was positive: ‘We have set our budgets as all firms have done, which we want to make sure we hit, while continuing the improvement of our profit and revenue. We expect a year of continued uncertainty, but we think we will meet our targets after a good start to the year. There are many twists and turns in any financial year; this year more than most, and we expect to be thrown the unexpected in the future. Overall, we have made investments that we said we were going to make as part of our strategy, and we continue to review our year-on-year performance.’

Legal Business

Sponsored briefing: The regulatory environment for M&A transactions

The team at Eversheds Sutherland discuss some of the key themes in the regulatory environment and how these are impacting M&A parties

Legal Business

Sponsored firm profile: Long term ambition trumps short term reaction

Eversheds Sutherland’s Richard Moulton on why 2022’s market dip hasn’t dampened the desire to become a leading global M&A powerhouse

Faced with the headwinds seen in 2022, it would be tempting for any corporate practice to pause its investment plans. However, the long-term ambition that Eversheds has for its M&A team is such that this was never an option. As Richard Moulton, the firm’s global co-head of corporate puts it: ‘Pausing investment would have been the easy option, but would have missed the opportunity to continue to build in line with our strategic plans for the global M&A team.’

The fundamentals of the firm’s ambitions for the M&A practice go beyond simply wanting to be a bigger practice, so the slowdown in M&A activity experienced in the second half of 2022 was no reason for them to change course. Indeed being larger is a bi-product of what Moulton and the corporate partners are aiming to achieve. ‘It is our aim to become the strategic partner for our clients on their M&A transactions, regardless of size, location or complexity – if it’s important to them, it’s vital for us. If we had stopped our investment, we would have wasted a lot of time, effort and money. It was never really an option for us.’

The firm has continued to transform its corporate business over the last 12 months, with some significant developments both in personnel and deal execution. In May it welcomed city veteran Roger Barron into its ranks as a senior M&A adviser. Barron comes with a lot of pedigree having been a leading M&A lawyer for over 30 years, 27 of which were with Linklaters. Until recently he was a partner at the US headquartered law firm, Paul Hastings, where he was appointed global vice chair of its M&A practice. On his arrival, Moulton adds: ‘Roger has come in to help us get to the next level, in terms of our relationships across the M&A market, and also our approach to positioning ourselves for strategic deals from blue-chip clients. They don’t come more experienced than Roger in that sense.’

Barron’s arrival was not the only significant hire the practice has made recently, with big names appearing across the network in the last 12 months. In Paris, partners Jean-Robert Bousquet and Alexandre Morel joined as part of a seven-strong team making the short journey across the Parc de Bagatelle from CMS Francis Lefebvre Avocats. This was followed by Steffen Schneipp from PwC, whose arrival spearheaded the opening of its much-anticipated Frankfurt office. On Eversheds’ enhanced bench in Europe, Moulton comments: ‘For our strategy to come alive, we need to make sure we have leading practitioners in every key M&A market delivering consistent excellence for our clients. The hires we have made over the past 12 months have sought to deepen and strengthen our existing bench and add a wider range of sector expertise’.

The strengthening of the bench of corporate partners has not been limited to Europe. The practice in the US has also seen some major names added over the last 12 months, with the additions of Craig Alcorn in Chicago and Baird Fogel, who like Schniepp in Frankfurt, has been brought in as part of the office expansion in San Francisco.

Alcorn’s arrival from Skadden in mid-2022 further strengthens the firm’s M&A capabilities in Chicago, which has already seen major corporate investment in the form of Stacey Kern and Lance Philips. Alcorn’s hire also adds much needed public company M&A expertise to the US team’s bench. Fogel’s arrival adds transactional capabilities to an office opened to put a physical presence in a market where the firm already has an impressive client roster.

As Moulton is keen to point out, this is not simply a headcount exercise: ‘It’s important we add the right people with the right expertise to the practice, however what really counts is their fit with how we want to help our clients do deals and the culture of our teams.’

Moulton is keen that the practice continues with the wider firm’s tradition of focusing on relationships as its foundation. The firm has always been noted for the strength of its relationships with clients and the resource put into ensuring clients receive market leading service on transactions and that they are in constant communication inside, and outside of a project. ‘It’s important as we grow, we continue to live by the principles that have stood us in good stead over the years. We are adding quality lawyers who buy into our platform and the way we want to support our clients to execute their deals. Cultural fit is a

One of the aspects Moulton specifically draws out to when he refers to their principles, is the focus on delivering service excellence that sparks into life whenever they are instructed on a deal. This focus on the client’s key aims is essentially how the corporate partners bring in the full strength of the firm to deliver a great experience for the client, particularly when a deal involves multiple jurisdictions (and almost two thirds of their deals do). Moulton adds: ‘On every transaction we do a detailed debrief with the client to understand what we did well and where we can make improvements’. The intelligence that is gained from these debriefs is used to inform how the team works behind the scenes on a deal. There is a mix of putting the right people, at the right level on deals, utilising specialists, including project managers, and lawyers from other legal disciplines, such as merger control and data as well as utilising the latest technologies. ‘We’re creating a proposition whereby the client experiences the best legal minds, the most efficient use of our resource and information flows and ensuring this is to the same high standard regardless of which lawyers are working on the deal and which country the deal is being led from.’

As a full-service law firm, you would expect the practice to be able to call upon lawyers from around the firm to advise on regulatory aspects of the firm, but as Moulton is keen to point out, the way the firm has developed puts the corporate practice in an advantageous position compared to many of its peers. ‘Whilst other firms see practices like employment and competition as corporate support, we don’t. They are practices in their own right and, as such, are run that way; focusing on having the best lawyers who are immersed in the law. As you would expect, it’s a real benefit to have this specific expertise on a deal, but we also use it to stay ahead of legal developments and knowledge share so that clients are aware of issues before deals start. The UK’s NS&I Act was a great example of this in practice. We were all fully briefed on its implications well in advance, and so were talking to our clients about it – even when no deals were on the horizon. I’m proud of the fact we are able to bring this perspective to clients.’

Investment is also being made in these areas and sector regulatory expertise, with the hire of Martin Sandler from EY who joined the firm’s London financial services regulatory team in October 2022 and Washington-based competition partner, Josh Shapiro who joined from Thompson Hine in January this year.

With the M&A market expected to gradually improve from 2022’s slowdown, Eversheds Sutherland’s corporate practice is well positioned to continue on its trajectory to becoming a practice that competes with the biggest and best in the market.


Richard Moulton
Global co-head of corporate
T: +44 20 7919 4593
M: +44 771 733 6327

1 Wood Street
T: +44 (0)20 7919 4500

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