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Eversheds in merger talks with U.S. law firm Sutherland Asbill

Tue, 29th Nov 2016 17:34

LONDON, Nov 29 (Reuters) - UK-based law firm Eversheds is in merger talks with U.S. peer Sutherland Asbill & Brennan in the latest attempt by the British firm to secure a U.S. tie-up.

The two firms' partners are due to vote on a proposal before the end of the year to create a combined firm, called Eversheds Sutherland, which would employ 2,300 lawyers across 61 offices in 29 countries, Eversheds said on Tuesday.

Eversheds' Chief Executive Bryan Hughes outlined plans in 2012 to become a "global leader" by 2020, partly to better serve the global needs of clients, and the firm has been openly keen to clinch a U.S. merger over the last two years.

But talks with U.S.-based Foley & Lardner broke off last year.

"Joining forces with Sutherland will give each firm's clients a global platform and we will be discussing the proposal with our partners positively in the coming weeks," Hughes said on Tuesday.

Eversheds, built up over the last 20 years from small, national practices, has a core practice area that includes real estate, company commercial law and consulting. Sutherland, established in 1924 as a tax firm, also focuses on areas such as energy, financial services, intellectual property and litigation.

Profit per equity partner at the two firms is similar. Eversheds, which has more than 500 partners and almost 2,000 lawyers, had a revenue of 406 million pounds ($507 million) in the last year, while profits per equity partner (PEP) came in at 742,000 pounds.

Atlanta-based Sutherland, which also has offices in Austin, Houston, New York, Sacramento, California and Washington DC and employs 170 partners and more than 200 additional lawyers, had a revenue of $300 million in 2015 and equity partners earned just over $1 million.

The profitability falls short of that at London's "magic circle" of top law firms, such as Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy, where equity partners earned between 1.2 million and 1.47 million pounds ($1.5-1.84 million) last year. A record 11 law firms reported an average PEP of 1 million pounds for last year.

Eversheds said the new firm would be overseen by a global board with equal representation from both legal practices. The two firms said it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage of discussions. ($1 = 0.8001 pounds) (Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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