Scotsman Legal Review: Chambers UK

A number of Scottish law firms are looking for consolidation opportunities. Picture: Shutterstock
A number of Scottish law firms are looking for consolidation opportunities. Picture: Shutterstock
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Companies in Scotland have continued to grow, both domestically and internationally. As such, they are seeking the kind of legal representation that can match these requirements.

Research for Chambers UK 2017, which involved interviews with thousands of clients across Scotland and the wider United Kingdom, revealed that clients are continuing to look for business advice and expertise that extends across the border and further afield.

As such, law firms have continued to look for growth opportunities, although the trend for merger activity looks to have calmed of late.

That is not to say that the appetite for merging is not there. Following a busy period, a number of Scottish firms remain on the lookout for consolidation opportunities.

The feeling that the legal market in Scotland is becoming saturated is one that is growing.

Mergers, therefore, become an attractive proposition.

Talks have stalled for various reasons, however, and it remains to be seen when the next significant move will be made.

With English volume-driven business models remaining keen to expand, the Scottish market will remain a significant option.

So the feeling within the market is one of cautious optimism. Law firms across Scotland are reporting numbers on the rise in terms of both revenue and personnel.

But caution remains the key with high profile administrations, such as the recent collapse of McClure Naismith, still very much fresh in the mind.

As a market that many think is already overcrowded keeps on growing, the sense of optimism is countered by predictions of further merger activity, or worse, fears of more significant insolvencies for established local firms. In the immediate term, the market looks comparatively stable when compared with the rush of merger, consolidation and administration activity this time last year.

In keeping, then, with the theme of expansion further afield, another key topic of discussion going forward will be the fallout from the EU referendum.

Just as questions were asked in Scotland about its position in the UK, the debate has been reignited as Scotland now considers its place in Europe, with Britain’s preparations for exit beginning in earnest.

Once again, law firms and their clients will be considering the extent to which they must balance their interest in growing their international capabilities with the desire in Scotland for greater independence while maintaining a presence in Europe.

Michael Perkin is editor of Chambers UK. The full Chambers UK 2017 rankings and editorial commentary can be found at www.chambersandpartners.com

The Scotsman’s annual legal review looks at some of the most active areas of legal practice in Scotland. Informed by comprehensive data published by Chambers and Partners and Legal 500, the articles give exclusive insight into the work of more than 11,000 practising solicitors and over 460 practising advocates.