Partners quit as Scots merger creates top five law company

Leading Scottish firms are facing a serious challenge to their domination of the legal market following a merger which has created the fourth largest practice north of the border.

Bishop and Robertson Chalmers, based in Glasgow, has merged with Alex Morison & Co, based in Edinburgh, to create Morison Bishop.

The merged firm's combined total of 30 partners and 109 fee earners makes it one of the top five largest firms in Scotland.

Neither of the pre-merger firms were previously in the top 10.

The merger will widen the gap between large firms, serving corporate clients, and medium-sized firms serving only local clients.

Chairman of the new firm is John Welsh, who was formerly senior partner at Bishop and Robertson Chalmers.

The new managing partner is Ewen Dyce, formerly managing partner at Alex Morison.

Dyce says: “We believe that the merger will be warmly welcomed by the business community and that our enlarged resources and wider range of services will lead to a substantial increase in new business.”

But the merger is not without its casualties. Three partners have already announced their departures to rival firms.

Norman Smith and Gillian Downie, both partners at Alex Morison, have joined the commercial property department of Maclay Murray & Spens.

Smith has joined the company as a partner and Downie has joined as an associate. They have taken three fee-earners with them.

Michael Walker, Maclay Murray & Spens' managing partner, says: “Norman is a serious addition to our operation in Scotland.”

Brodies WS has hired corporate partner Rodger Murray, who set up Bishop and Robertson Chalmers' Lithuanian office.

Bill Drummond, Brodies' managing partner, says: “Rodger Murray's experience will contribute greatly to our fast-growing corporate department.”

Walker says: “It's interesting that this merger has happened. It's the continuation of the widening of the gap between the big and medium sized firms that we have seen this year.”

Fred Sheddon, who is McGrigor Donald's senior partner, says: “In Scotland, and in partner terms, it becomes a large law firm. But that doesn't necessarily mean that they will be getting top of the market corporate work or banking work.”

The Scottish Top Ten

1 McGrigor Donald: 54 partners;142 fee-earners

2 Dundas & Wilson: 53 partners; 168 fee-earners.

3 Maclay Murray & Spens: 46 partners; 175 fee-earners

4 Morison Bishop: 30 partners; 112 fee earners.

5 Paull & Williamsons: 30 partners, 67 fee earners.

6 Tods Murray WS: 30 partners; 89 fee earners.

7 Burness: 29 parnters; 87 fee earners

8 Brodies WS: 28 partners; fee earners 110

9 Ledingham Chalmers: 28 partners; 105 fee earners

10 Shepherd & Wedderburn WS: 28 partners; 135 fee-earners