Thorntons secures three-way Scottish merger

Scottish law firms Thorntons, Murray Donald and Steel Eldridge Stewart are to merge later this year to create the largest law firm in eastern Scotland. 

The expected £20m firm will be headed up by joint Thorntons managing partners Craig Nicol and Scott Milne and be known as Thorntons. No jobs will be lost in the merger, which follows a wave of consolidation in the Scottish legal market. 

Tayside firm Thorntons is understood to have been seeking a tie-up for some time. It produces the bulk of the anticipated turnover figure, posting a record turnover figure of £14.3m at the end of the 2012/13 financial year (5 August 2013).

The firm’s management structure will remain the same but Murray Donald private client head Lynn Melville takes a seat on the chairman’s committee and property head Douglas Kinnear will sit on the operational board.

Cupar firm Steel Eldridge Stewart has not added any partners to the board but partners Hilary Eldridge and Jim Steel will become Thorntons consultants.

The tie-up is the latest in a string of Scottish mergers following Dundas & Wilson’s merger with CMS Cameron McKenna earlier this year (1 May 2014) and Berrymans Lace Mawer’s (BLM) takeover of HBM Sayers in May (1 May 2014). Meanwhile in 2012 Burness and Paull & Williamsons joined forces to create the fourth-largest independent firm at the time (9 October 2012).

However Kennedys called off its planned merger with Simpson Marwick late last year (11 December 2013).

Thorntons will now have 11 offices across Angus, Tayside, Perthshire, Fife and Edinburgh. It will also have a total of 40 partners and 400 employees, boosting Thorntons’ current partner total of 26. Around two thirds of Thorntons partners are in its equity and the firm posted average profit per equity partner of £118,000 in 2012/13.

However Thorntons has been one of the stronger Scottish performers recently. A number of other firms suffered from declining revenues and profit last year (see feature, 14 October 2013).

Thorntons has aimed to secure a niche in the agricultural market and hired Morton Fraser partner Kenneth Mackay last year to its agriculture group (5 August 2013). That will continue to be a key focus for the consolidated firm. Private client, family, court and real estate will also be key complementary practice areas.

Thorntons chairman Jack Robertson said: “This merger is a natural fit for all three businesses as we  share a similar vision and have a number of key strategic priorities in common.”