Harper Macleod joins forces with Bird Semple to create £23m firm

Scotland’s Harper Macleod is to take over Glasgow-based private client boutique Bird Semple, creating a £23m firm in the process.

The deal, which was signed earlier this month and will go live on 1 September, is set to add £2.1m to Harper Macleod’s 2013/14 turnover figure of £21m and bring its partner headcount to 56. Although Bird Semple has six partners, Gordon Wylie is retiring from the practice so only five will move across.

Currently, Harper Macleod has one private client partner, who focuses on matters such as wills and residential conveyancing. Bird Semple’s team focuses on wealth management for higher-net-worth individuals, including asset protection and taxation. As part of the deal, Harper Macleod’s three-partner family team will join the larger private client practice.

Martin Darroch

Harper Macleod chief executive Martin Darroch said the deal would make the firm the “third largest private client practice in Scotland overnight”.

“In terms of clients we act for, if you look at the SME marketplace in Scotland we’re advising individuals,” Darroch said. “This is about ensuring we have the full service that they need and want. It’s adding to and extending what we already have.”

The move is part of an expansion plan that has seen Harper Macleod take on 15 per cent more office space in its newly refurbished headquarters in Glasgow’s Ca’d’oro Building. Between 2012/13 and 2013/14 the firm’s total headcount increased from 278 to 281 while fee-earner numbers went from 174 to 178.8 on a full-time equivalent basis.

Firm chairman Lorne Crerar said: “Last year we announced our intention to significantly expand the firm and we’ve delivered on that promise. We’ve been consistent in our strategy to grow organically, extending our service offering by attracting the very best lawyers in areas where we see potential for growth.”

He continued: “Bird Semple operates in different sectors and provides advice in different areas to those of our existing private client offering. The opportunity to bring in the specialist knowledge Bird Semple has always been renowned for was something that makes perfect sense.”

Bird Semple managing partner Frank Fletcher added that the deal would give his firm’s clients “access to a range of other relevant legal services”.

Founded in 1845, Bird Semple moved into corporate and commercial work in the 1970s and in the 1980s merged with fellow Scottish firm Fyfe Ireland & Co. That deal was short lived, and the merger was unwound in the 1990s with the corporate arm of Fyfe Ireland eventually going to Brodies (31 October 2005) and the private client arm to Tods Murray (23 January 2012).

Bird Semple itself split into commercial and private client practices in 2000, with the former joining DLA Piper (then Dibb Lupton Alsop) for its Scotland launch (5 November 1999) and the latter remaining a stand-alone firm.