Glasgow and Edinburgh-based MacRoberts was one of the first firms to attempt to pick up PFI work.
It has built a reputation for work in this area, and has handled some very large transactions in the past 18 months. In July 2000, a 26-strong team acting for the preferred bidder completed the £400m PFI agreement with Glasgow City Council. This is the biggest PFI deal ever done in Scotland and is believed to be the biggest educational PFI project in the UK. Since then, deals the firm has completed include two waste water projects – the Tay, worth £100m, and the Moray at £80m.
MacRoberts is currently acting for Amey on an Edinburgh schools PFI and the Royal Bank of Scotland on a Ministry of Defence Bristol and Bath housing agreement worth £100m. This involved project partners visiting Scandinavian and German firms. MacRoberts also has an understanding with Melbourne firm Maddock Lonie & Chisholm to carry out PFI work on a joint-venture basis.
Managing partner Lindy Patterson is delighted with the growth the firm has experienced: “We've been very strong in other areas for some time but we've had outstanding success in PFI for the last three years or so.”
The firm now has 20 lawyers in that department and 31 partners in total. Employment is doing well, having trebled in the past three years and construction has grown by around 35 per cent.
This growth has been supported by several lateral hires, but Patterson is keen to redress the balance with more organic growth and is protective of the firm's ethos. “We've a hell of a lot of fee-earners , but partners are very much involved in driving deals forward. That may well be a function of our size, but it is also part of our philosophy. I was surprised when I first came here by the amount of chargeable time the partners do.”
“It's not acceptable any more just to be a lawyer – you've got to be much more than that”
Lindy Patterson, MacRoberts
Corporate partner David Davidson joined from Berwin Leighton Paisner on 24 September. Projects partner Andrew Orr came from McGrigor Donald a year ago, and partner Keith Patterson joined from McClure Naismith. Joanne Boag-Thomson left the firm to move to Shepherd & Wedderburn. She was one of the younger partners and was given the opportunity of heading a team there.
Patterson is conscious of the need to monitor closely the developments of the changing Scottish markets. “We need to look ahead and anticipate shrinking and developing markets. The Scottish parliament has had a bit of an impact, but I think the true impact will come in the next term of parliament, after the next election.
“The other issue is the continual search for the provision of the best possible service. It's not acceptable any more just to be a lawyer – you've got to be far more than that.”
There are no specific plans for expansion but Patterson does say that she is always looking south of the border: “It's something that we have under constant review.”