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Eversheds’ Norwich exit" />It has not been two weeks since Eversheds announced it was closing its 97-strong Norwich office and making 33 lawyers redundant elsewhere (TheLawyer.com, 4 September), but already the repercussions are being felt.
Norwich firms are positioning themselves to take advantage of ‘Project August’, as the redundancy programme is known internally at Eversheds.
Birketts is one such firm. Its Norwich head Jeanette Wheeler, herself an ex-Eversheds partner, says her former firm’s impending departure has stirred things up locally.
“We’ve had a number of calls from people in the Eversheds office, as some feel they’ll find it difficult to commute from Norwich to Cambridge every day – and that provides us with opportunities,” reveals Wheeler.
Nor is Birketts the only firm with Norwich offices to be approached by unsettled junior lawyers and staff from Eversheds. Sources at both Howes Percival and Mills & Reeve confirm that Eversheds fee-earners have contacted them.
When senior associates move it will undoubtedly raise the prospect of clients changing allegiances, as Eversheds Norwich senior office partner Owen Warnock concedes.
He told The Lawyer: “We’re realistic and understand there will be the odd exception, with legal advisers deciding to stay in Norwich, and that work will go with them.”
Indeed, Wheeler claims clients have approached her to say they will be reviewing their legal providers.
“The approaches have been from those headquartered or based in Norwich,” she says. A quick glance at Eversheds’ client list shows that local clients include Norwich-based newspaper publisher Archant and Lancaster Garages. Will they be up for grabs?
Eversheds is optimistic that most of its lawyers will stay with the firm and most of the work will be transferred to Cambridge. Certainly, the partners are all relocating.
Warnock and Tracy Yates, both employment partners, will relocate to Cambridge permanently, as will real estate partners Tracey Hughes and Bryan Gillery. In addition, real estate partners Richard Hanson and Paul Wootton, who spend part of their time in the Norwich office, will go to Cambridge.
Many of the 40 support staff from Norwich, however, will not be joining the partners, admits Cambridge senior office partner Ian Mather. The final number of staff moving looks likely to be around 50 out of an original tally of 97.
Eversheds anticipates that the move, which is expected to be completed before Christmas, will be reasonably cheap.
“There’s no need for new equipment as, for instance, the phones are the same system and it’s the same for computers,” explains Mather. “The cost will really be for moving everything here, and that means paying for men with vans.”
The imminent move to Cambridge may have a dramatic impact on Norwich, but Cambridge law firms do not see Eversheds ramping up in their locality. One managing partner says his firm has not even bothered to think about it.
“It simply isn’t a significant enough increase to get us worried,” says the Cambridge-based senior figure.
Indeed, Eversheds Cambridge will not see its size increase to much more than its rivals, such as Taylor Vinters, which had 97 fee-earners at the last count.
Eversheds’ Cambridge office currently holds 89 staff, but has room for 180 over its three floors (equivalent to around 21,000sq ft) in Kett House. Adding the Norwich contingent will not even bring the office up to full capacity. The move may have saved in overheads, but it is doubtful that it will translate into local dominance.