Eversheds partners vote to pursue US merger

Eversheds partners have voted overwhelmingly in favour of pursuing a US merger, with 90 per cent getting behind the plan.

The vote took place at the firm’s partner conference in Rome in June this year (See Behind the Law). Eversheds chief executive Bryan Hughes told The Lawyer that since then he has “started looking at the market in earnest”.

Hughes and chairman Paul Smith have visited the US twice and met with law firm leaders there. Smith has also undertaken a further trip alone. The firm did not reveal which firms it had met with.

Hughes told The Lawyer he had consulted partners on a timescale but that there was ”no burning platform” forcing the firm’s hand.

”The strong steer from the partner base was that we should take our time to explore the market and focus on doing the right thing rather than doing something quickly,” said Hughes. “That said, whilst speed is not the driver, as we have decided that this is something that we want to do we will not kick the decision making into the long grass.”

Hughes said the timing of the merger bore no relation to his tenure as chief executive and that it would not necessarily go ahead before his tenure ended in April 2017.

Eversheds established a US strategy group three years ago, which alongside Hughes, Smith, head of company commercial Keith Froud and head of human resources Martin Warren also consists of employment partner Martin Hopkins, head of employment law Joanne Hyde, litigation partner Damian Hyndman, co-chair of cross border M&A Robin Johnson and commercial disputes partner Neville Byford.

Finessing the firm’s global footprint has been high on the agenda at Eversheds’ since the firm’s 2020 Vision was launched at its partner conference in June 2012 (9 July 2012).

Eversheds’ most recent merger was with Finnish firm Juridia Bützow to form JB Eversheds earlier this month (3 November 2014).

However, Europe has not been the main focus of the firm’s global expansion plans lately. A year ago the firm launched a new pan-African strategy and the Eversheds African Law Institute (EALI), signing up firms from 14 countries initially to participate in the venture (1 October 2013).

It also entered South Africa via a deal with Mahons Attorneys in December 2013 giving it bases in Johannesbury, Cape Town and Port Louis in Mauritius (4 December 2013), and then expanding in Durban through an affiliation with Knight Turner, which is now known as Eversheds KZN (2 June 2014).