Eversheds Sutherland is one of the largest full service international law firms in the world with over 60 offices across Europe, the Middle East, North America and Asia. The result of a merger between Sutherland Asbill & Brennan and Eversheds in early 2017, the firm is now a top ten largest law firm in the UK by revenue. Known for having an approachable and easygoing office culture, the firm offers its trainees first-class training, and has won awards for its corporate responsibility and diversity initiatives.
Today, I talked to Jamie Leader, a Partner in the Finance group, and Anisha Polson, a Tax Associate, about their respective routes to Eversheds Sutherland and their experiences at the firm.
Jamie Leader, who is originally from Dorset, has been at Eversheds Sutherland for almost fourteen years. Between working at a City law firm and spending time with his three young children, he enjoys spending time with family and friends, as well as walking his dog.
Anisha Polson has worked at Eversheds Sutherland for three and a half years, joining the firm initially as a Trainee. She attended primary school in New Delhi before moving to Manchester for secondary school, and enjoys classical dancing and reading in her spare time.
Why did you decide to pursue a career as a solicitor?
Jamie: My original plan was to be a barrister. I trained for the bar and completed a pupillage in Lincoln’s Inn, but moved to a solicitors’ firm when the chambers disbanded (and I needed to pay the rent!) As for why I wanted to be a lawyer, I wanted a career that would be both interesting and intellectually challenging, and I am glad to say that it continues to be both.
Anisha: When I was doing my GCSEs, I took part in a ‘Pathways to Law’ access scheme organised by the Sutton Trust, and this sparked my initial interest in law. Following this, I started reading more into what a career in law might involve, and one of the books that inspired me at the time was (now Dame) Helena Kennedy’s Eve Was Framed. I also liked how law combined some of my key interests – politics, economics and mathematics (mainly for the logical thinking required!)
What does a typical day at Eversheds Sutherland look like for you?
JL: I generally spend the day at my desk or in meetings (occasionally in court). My day is split between client work, management and supervision, and administration (billing, client care etc), but the majority of my time is spent advising clients.
AP: I will usually have a list of corporate and real estate ‘deals’ on at any one time, but these will progress at different speeds. We always get ad hoc tax queries coming in from different teams in our firm and we will tackle them as and when they come in. The day will also be nicely punctuated with coffee breaks and at least once a week, we have training on various areas in Tax.
Could you tell us about a case you worked on and your role within it?
JL: My specialism is restructuring and insolvency, and I’ve recently been advising Network Rail on the collapse of the Carillion Group. Carillion held a number of major rail infrastructure contracts, so its liquidation on 15 January risked causing serious delays in important works, as well as redundancies and further subcontractor insolvencies. I negotiated a transitional deal which ensured that the liquidator and special managers of Carillion would continue the rail works until a new contractor could be found, and which also guaranteed the wages of Carillion rail employees and payments to subcontractors, reducing the impact of the insolvency on the workforce and supply chain.
AP: Our client was forming a joint venture to acquire a property for circa £190 million, and there were lots of parties involved in this deal. My role was to assist my partner on the tax aspects of it, and quite interestingly, there were lots of tax issues which had to be discussed and then a solution found for each before the deal could complete. I liaised directly with the lawyers acting for the Sellers, and then with our client and also internally with all the other teams working on the same deal. I had to make sure that our responses and solutions were effective from all angles and did not throw up any issues from a corporate/real estate perspective.
How would you describe the culture of Eversheds Sutherland in three words?
JL: Friendly; Excellence; Global.
AP: Innovative, collegiate and approachable.
What do you think makes the firm different from others?
JL: Almost everyone who joins Eversheds Sutherland from another firm is surprised at how friendly and collegiate we are, without the quality of the work being compromised. It is a very unstuffy, non-hierarchical place to work, and we managed to preserve that culture in our US combination in 2017.
AP: When I applied, I really liked the regional strength that Eversheds had. This is not something many law firms in London can boast of. Now, with the cross Atlantic combination with Sutherland (February 2017), Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP has tremendously grown in strength and brand.
Jamie, what is the main change you think we will see in the future of the legal profession?
JL: At risk of being predictable, I think legal technology and artificial intelligence are going to make a huge impact on how we all work over the next ten years. At the firm we have a large team (of both lawyers and non-lawyers) working on how we can use new technologies to make life easier for our clients and our lawyers.
Do you have any advice for budding solicitors hoping to work at Eversheds Sutherland?
JL: Nothing out of the ordinary: don’t be afraid to show your personality; do apply for the vacation scheme and do your background reading.
AP: Be yourself, try not to let the nerves get the better of you, and do show some of your real personality when you are attending any open days or vacation schemes. Complete every task you are set with attention to detail and diligence. Attention to detail is one of the key skills of a lawyer and I often see many work experience students not giving tasks like ‘proof reading’ the importance they require. Commercial awareness can be built up in many ways, try starting somewhere like the Times newspaper, or the Economist. Try listening to the Today programme in the mornings. You need not do this every day, but if you start doing this early, it will become an easy habit. It is also useful when you read a news story to think – why did the company/person make such a decision, what other factors may have influenced them, are there external factors which are outside their control? etc.
Anisha, what is the best thing about training at Eversheds Sutherland? And which departments did you enjoy the most?
AP: The best thing about training at Eversheds Sutherland is the lack of hierarchy. At first, I felt a little unnerved by it. However, I began to appreciate how easy it was for me to go speak to a Partner about any tax query at any point in time without feeling silly. Especially in an area as technical as tax where you are working on black letter law and cases, it can be quite difficult in the first 6 months or so to not become overwhelmed by it.
The level of responsibility you get varies in departments. For example, whilst I was doing a seat in Real Estate, I enjoyed the autonomy I got over certain deals. In Tax, I liked the fact that I had hands on supervision throughout. Different seats demand different skills from you and Partners in teams recognise this. I also really like the culture of collegiality in the firm, people are genuinely very friendly to each other and even when in the midst of intense deals, there are often many light moments which make the whole experience much better.
I have worked in Real Estate, Employment, Corporate and Tax. Whilst I enjoyed all of them for specific reasons, I enjoyed Tax the most! Which is why I qualified into the team!
And finally Jamie, what do you most enjoy about your career and why?
JL: The fact that, however long you’ve been practising, you can never know it all – there are always new challenges.
Thank you so much Jamie and Anisha for letting me interview you today.
This article was written by Kyra Chong