Eversheds goes for Smoke

Now, why on earth is Eversheds snapping up a firm of parliamentary agents?

Now, why on earth is Eversheds snapping up a firm of parliamentary agents? Here’s the first, more localised answer. It’s a decent fit in public sector and transport – Rees & Freres presented the bills on Crossrail and TfL, if memory serves. The second answer is rather more intriguing. More than anything in the world, Eversheds wants to crack London and 18 months ago drew up a strategy called ‘Making It Happen’. Making It Happen clearly involves Gearing Up For A Bunch Of Mini-Mergers And Making Lots of Lateral Hires, if the last year is anything to go by.

Eversheds has never quite been the ragbag of regional fiefdoms its rivals allege, but there have always been spheres of influence, shall we say. London, which was formed from a collection of mergers in the 1990s, has struggled to impose its own character on the marketplace. Most of the big figures in Eversheds’ leadership grew up in the regional offices – David Gray and Stephen Hopkins in Leeds, Bryan Hughes in Cardiff and Cornelius Medvei in Norwich, to name four.

Eversheds’ current public profile has been based on its spectacular success in rolling out its Tyco model (see City column on page 17).

This looks like changing, however. Later this year the firm will move into huge new headquarters near St Paul’s, and the effect of a new office on firm culture and energy is well documented – as Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Norton Rose will all agree.

Measuring success is both vital for strategic planning and internal morale, but in Eversheds’ case it entails a tricky political balancing act. The firm claims not to account geographically, but on a practice group level. This approach has all the standard virtues of cross-referrals and integration, but doesn’t quite help when you need to assess the performance of the firm’s most important office, and one where it has long struggled for visibility.

I’m not quite sure why Eversheds’ management is shy of talking about London’s performance, though. It looks as if its ambitious target of £110m in turnover by 2009 will be achieved comfortably; the London office will probably bring in some £100m at the end of this financial year. A few more mini-mergers would do the trick nicely.