25 March 2002
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In February this year, Scottish firm Biggart Baillie gained a 10-strong pensions team, which included three partners, from Morrison Bishop. Iain Talman, June Crombie and Colin Greig are due to take up their positions in the next few months.
Chairman David Ross says: "We anticipate that they'll bring a substantial volume of business. A figure of up to 10 per cent on our [£12m] turnover has been floated." With few firms in Scotland focusing on pensions, Biggarts will be well placed to take a dominant role in the market. When the pensions team joins, the firm will boast an impressive 36 partners.
It was only last November that the firm bolstered the partnership with the 10-partner acquisition of Steedman Ramage. The greatest challenge in amalgamating the new teams has been promoting the increased services available. "It's what we shall be working at, absolutely flat out," promises Ross. And although a couple of partners from Steedmans chose not to join Biggarts, all those who did join in November have remained.
Steedmans formerly represented the Department of Trade and Industry in relation to directors disqualification. Biggarts and Semple Fraser have subsequently been successful in winning the business.
Both the Edinburgh and Glasgow offices are full service, with Edinburgh also taking the Courts of Session work. Steedmans had a good reputation among local surveyors, while Biggarts' property work tends to veer towards industry and the railways.
Biggarts was created in 1975 with the merger of Glasgow's Biggart Lumsden and Edinburgh's Baillie & Gifford. 2001 saw a 13 per cent rise in fee income and for the coming year a rise of 24 per cent is predicted. The firm doubled its Castle Street floor-space last year by acquiring an extra floor, having more than doubled its number of personnel since 1997, including the hire of Brent Haywood, who joined as a partner from Burness in February this year.
Is all this too much, too fast? Ross thinks not. "The dangerous growth is where you pile on the numbers of people in the business. What you've got to do is keep the numbers parallel with the growth of the business," he explains. "We're expecting that a commensurate volume of business will come with the people."
Biggarts has longstanding relationships with the likes of Scottish Power and BP. It is handling the major changes in the law which have come as a result of largescale privatisation, something that Ross thinks should be applied to other issues, such as rising stamp duty. "There are ways of structuring transactions that will add value," he states. "Electricity, gas and rail are mega-changes, but we have to produce people who can handle it."
Ross is chairman of the European-American Lawyers Group, which has members in 25 countries. The experience gathered from this group raises issues about the size of Scottish and English documents, which are viewed by Europeans as labour-intensive. Ross says: "You say to yourself, 'In other parts of the world this is a lot simpler for my clients to do. Do we have to do it this way?'"