Law firm Lindsays remains open to deals

Ian Beattie and Alasdair Cummings
Ian Beattie and Alasdair Cummings
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LAW firm Lindsays has insisted that it has “no plans at all” to enter into a cross-border mega-merger, but does remain open to other opportunities amid continuing consolidation in the Scottish legal sector.

The firm, which absorbed Dundee’s RSB Macdonald earlier this year, is predicting a “significant” jump in turnover for the 12 months to March as a result of that merger. It is the fourth such deal completed by Lindsays since 2008, when the economic crisis kick-started a phase of unprecedented change across the industry.

Managing partner Alasdair Cummings said Lindsays has been “galvanised” by celebrations that have gone on throughout the year to mark its 200th anniversary, and has no interest in being swallowed up by an English rival.

The firm traces its roots back to 1815 in Edinburgh, when cousins John MacKenzie Lindsay and Frederick Foth­ringham set up in Frederick’s mother’s George Street house.

That said, Cummings indic­ated that Lindsays remains open to deals in which it would be the lead partner. Chief operating officer Ian Beattie added that the firm is still looking for further opportunities to grow in its core areas of business.

“We are not the only law firm around that is talking to people,” Cummings said. “There is a lot of that going on right now.”

Reports suggest that as many as two-thirds of Scotland’s legal firms have been in discussions of one kind or another of late, as the consolidation bandwagon shows little sign of slowing.

Names such as Dundas & Wilson and McGrigor’s have been lost as firms join forces to remain competitive in a market yet to recover pre-recession buoyancy. Others have ceased trading, the most recent being McClure Naismith. It fell into administration in August after months of speculation about its financial health.

“To my generation, these are all household names,” Cummings said. “It is really quite amazing how few of them are left now in the same guise as 20 or 25 years ago.”

Lindsays, however, is reaping the benefits of its tie-up in July with RSB, which has expanded the Edinburgh-based firm’s presence in the booming Dundee market. Despite job losses at local firms such WH Brown, and looming clos­ure of the HMRC office, the city’s economy has prospered on the back of the £1bn waterfront
redevelopment.

“There is a buzz about the place that I think most people would recognise has not been there in the past,” Cummings said.

The firm’s turnover is now sitting at about £13 million annually, Beattie said, up from £10m in 2008.

Lindsays moved into Glasg­ow in 2008 through its merger with Kidstons, and followed up with two further deals in 2012 – Dundee’s Shield & Kyd in May, and MacLachlan & MacKenzie of Edinburgh in October. It now has 40 partners and 185 staff, up from 30 partners and 150 staff in 2008.

Although the market has been picking up, clients are still negotiating hard to keep a lid on fees charged. Pressure remains either to grow or merge, particularly among independent firms.

“Our view is that we would be surprised if there isn’t more change and consolidation in the market,” Beattie said.

“The firms that have done well are the ones that have been effectively managed. In that sense, the issues facing the legal sector are like those in any business.”

Lindsays is a general services firm operating in a variety of fields, which Cummings bel­ieves provided it with a degree of insulation during the worst of the downturn. It has particular strengths in property, family law, private client services and employment, and is also involved in the charity and not-for-profit sector.