Firm profile: Bell & Scott

Niche Scottish property firm Bell & Scott is on an expansion drive, according to managing partner Iain MacDonald, with a move into new Glasgow premises heralding the beginning of the growth.

Just one year after relaunching itself as a commercial property boutique following the spin-off of its two-partner private client team to Pagan Osborne, the firm merged with three-partner Glasgow outfit Clairmonts in September last year.

Bell & Scott now boasts four partners, five associates, two paralegals and two trainees in its West Scotland base.

“We’re very much a niche commercial property business and decided to go into Glasgow because it was a logical step for the business to be operating in two major cities in Scotland,” says MacDonald.

He adds that the move has helped the firm attract new lawyers in a tight employment market.

“We’ve found that we’ve been able to employ people in Glasgow more easily than in Edinburgh,” he says. “There’s a bit more fluidity in the Glasgow market, but it’s also because we’re a new entrant. We’re a specialist firm, so the people we’ve been able to attract have come because they’re interested in what we do.”

The firm’s focus is purely on commercial property, and although there is one employment partner based in the Glasgow office, the remaining 12 partners all work on property deals.

The bulk of the firm’s clients consist of property developers, although it does have a number of retail clients, such as HMV, Fopp, Wagamama and Domino’s Pizza.

One deal that MacDonald believes put the firm on the map in Glasgow came from developer Walker Group. The company sold 200 Broomielaw, a large office in the heart of the city’s financial district, to F&C Property Asset Management last year. At £35.76m it was the biggest property deal sealed in Glasgow at that time.

“That got us into the Glasgow market and we’ve been able to attract some good lawyers from good firms,” says MacDonald. “We can get quality work and that attracts young people into the business.”

So far Bell & Scott has turned to its larger Scottish rivals for a number of associate hires, taking Pat Loftus from Maclay Murray & Spens and Stephen McDonagh from Tods Murray.

“We’re looking to recruit across the board and have headhunters looking for laterals for Glasgow,” says MacDonald. “The commercial property market’s quieter, but we’re taking a long-term view.”