Eversheds moots Swiss Verein move as part of its 2020 vision

Eversheds is mulling converting to a Swiss Verein as the firm puts global integration at the heart of its new three-year plan.

Bryan Hughes
Bryan Hughes

Chief executive Bryan Hughes unveiled his three-year plan and his longer term strategy – called Eversheds 2020 Vision – to partners and associates at the firm’s London headquarters last week.

The three-year plan aims to accelerate integration among Eversheds’ international offices, with Hughes keen to establish a consistent standard across the network. The firm is now looking to create a body that can better police quality across its international network, though Hughes has ruled out full financial integration.

“We’ll be driving integration across the whole business in a number of ways: system enhancement, increasing the number of secondments, and particularly through the internationalisation of our practice groups, sectors and client service teams,” said Hughes, who said that the firm would pay for the improvements out of partner profits, which he expected to be flat in 2012-13 as a result.

“We’re using the strategic review as the opportunity to reset the standards that we work to so as to guarantee Eversheds-branded levels of service wherever we operate,” said Hughes “In conjunction with this we’re looking at creating a body with executive authority to oversee these standards.”

Eversheds International chairman David Gray is leading the reviewing group along with Hughes and four Eversheds International managing partners, with the group looking to make a proposal by half-way through the 2012-13 financial year.

Options include giving more power to Eversheds International’s executive, creating a firmwide executive with authority over the firm’s operations – which could take the form of a Swiss Verein, according to Hughes – or bringing a number of Eversheds International members onto Eversheds International’s strategy group, which comprises Eversheds’ senior management team, plus the heads of the Asian and Middle East.

Hughes’ longer term plan – Eversheds 2020 Vision – is more aspirational than the three-year plan, with the firm aiming to overtake its competitors by “setting the standard” in things like innovation, relationships and quality.

Hughes told partners last week that the plan was “to go it alone” in London following aborted merger talks with three different firms last year, but added he was still open to an opportunistic deal that would give Eversheds a boost in corporate or finance in the City.

Hughes told The Lawyer that ultimately he wanted Eversheds to be global but that he wanted to achieve that on Eversheds’ terms.

He said that there was not much “client imperative” to launch in Australia at the moment and that Hong Kong would more likely be the firm’s Asia Pacific hub. Hughes added that the US was expected to be part of Eversheds’ future and that he is looking to build relationships and get to know firms better in the States.

Hughes began the consultation that led to the three-year plan and the 2020 Vision at a partners meeting in Madrid in 2010, though it took on increased pace at the beginning of the 2011-12 financial year.

Hughes was appointed chief executive in 2009. The firm’s previous three-year plans, between 2006-09 and 2009-12 focused on improving client service, making Eversheds truly international and ensuring the firm was a great place to work.

Turnover at Eversheds for the 2011-12 financial year was up 3 per cent on 2010-11, to £366m, ending three years of static revenue (18 June 2012).