When the financial crisis hit in 2008 Scottish firm Harper Macleod took swift action to prepare its business for the worst.
But rather than cutting partners and laying off a raft of support staff, the firm chose to redeploy those in the firing line into other practices, with fee-earners in areas such as real estate, corporate and private client moving into the likes of insurance, insurance litigation and debt recovery.
The move appears to have paid off, with the firm seeing turnover rise by 7 per cent, from £14.1m to £15.1m, in the 2009-10 financial year.
For chief executive Martin Darroch, though, the job of reshaping the practice is an ongoing one.
“Last year we spent a lot of time looking at where we see the legal landscape going and made a couple of significant lateral hires,” says Darroch.
These were Wright Johnston & Mackenzie partner David Bone and McClure Naismith partner Derek Hogg. Bone was brought on board to build a renewable energy practice, while Hogg was added to the firm’s mature public sector practice.
Darroch says: “Bone is a well-respected practitioner and we’ve got a strong story to tell about where we’re going [with renewable energy].”
On Hogg, he adds: “He does social housing and we see significant growth potential there.”
In terms of partner remuneration, the average payment made in the 2009-10 financial year was £252,000, with the firm’s equity spread running from £90,000 to £410,000.
The firm operates a merit-based remuneration system, with partners placed on a spread of £70,000-£160,000 at the beginning of the year and gaining up to 11 points over the year to increase their profit shares. To date the maximum number of points that has been awarded is 10.
Chief executive: Martin Darroch
Number of partners: 43
Number of lawyers: 96
Number of fee-earners: 152
Number of offices: Three
Locations: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness
Main practice areas: Litigation, property
Clients: Scottish government, Forestry Commission, Department for Work and Pensions, RBS Insurance, Optical Express, Heineken