Scottish firms fight back

Larger Scottish firms without London offices fare better than the rest

The past financial year has proved to be an interesting one for observers of the Scottish legal scene. Semple Fraser has collapsed, to be snapped up by a variety of rivals. As we report in our analysis (12 August 2013), Dundas & Wilson and Maclay Murray & Spens are among the UK’s top 100 firms with the greatest falls in revenue compared with 2011/12.

Other firms, including Anderson Strathern, Gillespie Macandrew, McClure Naismith, Morton Fraser and Shepherd & Wedderburn have also seen turnover drop.


The amount varies. For example, Morton Fraser’s 2.8 per cent drop represents a decline of just £400,000 in monetary terms, and includes a £200,000 write-down of work-in-progress. Gillespie Macandrew’s 2 per cent fall is a decrease of only £200,000.

At larger firms, the difference is more marked. Anderson Strathern saw turnover fall by over 5 per cent, from the £23m reported in last year’s UK 200 to £21.8m. This is likely to push the firm out of the top 100 once all the figures are in.

That said, a number of Scottish firms have had very good years – given the state of the local economy, one could almost say spectacular. Towards the bottom end of the UK 200, Lindsays broke through the £10m mark for the first time with a rise of 14 per cent.

Revenue at Harper Macleod rose by an impressive 9 per cent, breaking through the key £20m barrier on the back of a steady programme of hiring in a number of practice areas, and Brodies posted a solid 7.5 per cent rise.

Tods Murray has also bounced back after a less-than-stellar 2011/12, with revenue up 7 per cent and profits up by at least as much.

Many firms that have grown say this has come from private client work. More surprisingly, property is also doing well.

It is notable that the three largest firms to have seen turnover fall all have London offices, whereas those that have recorded growth do not. The figures seem to indicate that for Scotland’s lawyers, focusing on strengths at home is paying off.