Murray McCall: Legal mergers remain an opportunity

Managing partner Murray McCall says Anderson Strathern is in talks to boost its diversity and geographic footprint. Picture: Jane Barlow
Managing partner Murray McCall says Anderson Strathern is in talks to boost its diversity and geographic footprint. Picture: Jane Barlow
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The Scottish legal sector has been awash with merger activity, actual and rumoured, over the last few weeks.

At Anderson Strathern, it’s in our interest to keep an ear to the ground on such developments – not least because consolidation offers up the chance to find a home for those who do not “buy in” to the new merged entity.

We ourselves were founded by the merger of two established Edinburgh firms in 1992 and since then we have completed several small mergers in Edinburgh and Glasgow, including two earlier this year.

We are now speaking to a few firms and groups of partners, including a small Scottish legal firm that, should things go to plan, would add more diversity as well as geographic footprint to our offering. This chimes with our collective partnership view that our medium-term future is most probably best served by a standalone strategy of organic growth, lateral hires and bolt-on acquisitions that add value for the firm and our clients.

While it would be inadvisable to rule out a mega-merger altogether, it would have to be entered into for the right strategic reasons with a view to the long game. We couldn’t allow it to create distractions.

The rebrand we completed last summer shows our desire to adapt and move with modern times – something law firms are not always seen to do. The exercise, in partnership with Scotland’s largest independent creative agency, Whitespace, made us think a lot about our identity and how we are seen in the market and by the outside world. We also came to see that our history remains an important part of our DNA.

The firm’s first partners advised Henry Scott, the third Duke of Buccleuch, in the 18th century, and the Buccleuch family remain clients of Anderson Strathern today.

With an established presence in the private client, business and public sectors, our ambition is to break into the “top-three” bracket of Scottish law firms. We think we can achieve this by continuing to invest significantly in our people and technology, as we have done over the last few years.

We are also taking a more business-focused approach to being a law firm, looking outside the partnership to bring in business experience from the likes of Graeme Bissett who now sits as a non-executive on our board. By working with many of Scotland’s fastest-growing entrepreneurial businesses, we have, partly by osmosis and partly by design, built innovation into our own business model.

A big push for us in 2017 will be strengthening links with London firms. This allows us to retain our own identity and culture but still pool talent and handle cases across multiple territories. We are confident we can make significant progress through these types of partnerships.

• Murray McCall is managing partner of law firm Anderson Strathern

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