Founded in the 1830s, Edinburgh firm Fyfe Ireland developed organically until the mid-1980s, when it became one of the first Scottish mergers, creating Bird Semple Fyfe Ireland. But the synergy between the Glasgow and Edinburgh firms was not what had been hoped for and the firms demerged seven years later.
Fyfe Ireland partner and head of corporate David Lindgren says: “We became a small firm again, but with big firm pretensions. We major on a partner-led, personal service that some of the larger firms with bigger overheads find difficult to do.
“The separate Scottish legal system means that however big you are, if you're opening up over here and need premises, then you're going to have to instruct a Scottish lawyer somewhere along the line. It isn't the same with corporate and banking due to the gravitational pull of London. We win business by having a reputation to trade upon and being nice.”
Lindgren, who joined from rival Scottish firm Dundas & Wilson in February 2000, is the latest lateral hire. However, four partners have left during the last year, two for personal reasons, another became a sheriff and Michael Fitzgerald left in the summer last year for MacRoberts.
“There are 13 partners and another in London,” says Lindgren. “More and more deals are driven from London and it is useful to have a bolt-hole.”
The firm has attempted to provide a dedicated financial services arm, with a joint venture between Fyfe Ireland and Futurity launched in June 2000. Lindgren says: “The new regulations and development of the financial services industry means that it is more sensible for us to send all that work out.”
“The Scottish legal system means that however big you are, if you're opening up over here and need premises, then you're going to have to instruct a Scottish lawyer”
David Lindgren, Fyfe Ireland
Property brings the most money into the firm – together with the private client department it provides 70 per cent of the firm's total turnover. “Pure commercial property is the current hotspot, pulling in around 50 per cent,” says Lindgren. “Because of the events of 11 September corporate growth has slowed down.”
Regarding the future, Lindgren happily succumbs to the cliché of bigger and better. “We have grown with our clients,” he says. “In the corporate department in particular we do seem to be attracting good growth clients. We have taken some spin-out companies from Edinburgh University through to very substantial fund-raisings. I would like to see more of that happening with our current client bases; we can grow on the back of that as well.” One of these companies is technology company Quadstone, which Fyfe Ireland helped raise £21m in January 2001.
Lindgren's largest deal last year was a £100m joint venture funding for a hotel company. Another transaction it was involved in was the acquisition of the Scottish property portfolio of P&O by a joint venture vehicle established by Green Property and Goldman Sachs. The onward sale of the portfolio for £70m was one of the biggest property transactions in Scotland. Lindgren also acts for the Loch Ness Monster Exhibition on intellectual property matters. No jokes, please.