Careful diversity is Scottish firm Henderson Boyd's route to continued strong performance

“It's a tough time for professional services firms, and this year we've bucked the trend and have been busier than we've ever been, particularly in the corporate area,” says Henderson Boyd Jackson managing partner Philip Dacker. “There aren't many other Scottish law firms that can say that,” he adds.
To achieve maintain this level of success, the firm will look at new practice areas, although Dacker would not disclose the details. “We have to be a wee bit careful,” he says. “It won't be a scatter-gun approach.”
This month the firm is moving its two Edinburgh offices to a single new site at Exchange Tower, within the leading business area of Edinburgh. It has another office in Glasgow. Dacker says that limited space at the Edinburgh offices has hindered communications for some time and he has high hopes for a new beginning.
“You need something as a catalyst and improvement comes out of it,” says Dacker. He is a great believer in people needing the right space to reach their potential. The firm has 22 partners, 32 assistants and a further eight trainees, and has a turnover of close to £10m.
With the largest part of the turnover coming from corporate commercial work, it is the specialist area of maritime law that has proven the largest growth area in recent months. Much of this work comes from the maritime insurers for the shipping industry. The firm is still tidying up cases relating to the Braer oil spill in 1993. It was instructed by the Braer insurers to defend nearly 200 separate actions. The insurers are a series of protection and indemnity (P&I) clubs within a Lloyd's-like association. The case was significant because it was the first time that Scottish courts took evidence on computer disc. It also resulted in a Scottish court sitting in Canada to gather vital evidence.
Dacker is refreshingly uncertain about where he expects the firm to be in five years. He hopes that it will have grown; he expects that there will have to be further reprofiling to help it on its way; and he would definitely like to be a market leader in one or two distinct areas. He nevertheless remains realistic about choices that are made and subsequently scrapped due to market forces or new ideas.
The firm has an in-house consultancy on e-business, which is doing very well on the quiet. Demys (short for demystify) was launched three years ago and has a good reputation within the domain name field. The firm helped Halifax acquire the domain name 'IF' and has joined the battle against cybersquatting, which is a whole new world of brand protection.
NTL is a key client for which the firm has acted in its rollout of the fibre cell network in Glasgow, which is the first in the UK and the next generation of data transfer. It has also recently acted for Jarvis in the refinancing of one of its real estate divisions, worth around £200m. There have also been several technology acquisitions for Intervid.