A look at the 2013 Scott & Co Scottish Legal Awards

Lasy year's Scott & Co Scottish Legal Awards celebrate
Lasy year's Scott & Co Scottish Legal Awards celebrate
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IN THE final run-up to the 2013 Scott & Co Scottish Legal Awards a new category has been added to the list of firms, teams and individuals who will be recognised at the black-tie ceremony and dinner at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on Thursday 28 March.

The Scotsman is sponsoring an award for Managing Partner of the Year. Leadership and decisiveness have probably never been as important across Scotland’s legal sector. With so many mergers completed and contemplated over the last year, and several more the subject of negotiation, many managing partners have been faced with new pressures, challenges and opportunities.

The decision of Semple Fraser last week to go into administration came as a seismic shock. Andrew Howie, managing partner of business analysts Grant Thornton, says: “I don’t know what the legal landscape will look like ten or even five years from now. What I do know is that it will be very different from what we have known up to now.”

What it will look like will depend on the acumen and the vision of the current generation of managing partners who hold the future of the sector in their hands, not just in terms of business success but also in ensuring that the Scottish firms first and foremost provide the legal services that are required by individuals and businesses in Scotland.

Whatever Scotland’s constitutional future, a robust legal sector is important, not only because of its economic significance and its role as a significant employer but also because of the contribution it can make in innovation and expertise. Retaining strategic decision making within Scotland is important across the economy, and not least within the provision of legal services.

The Managing Partner of the Year award will recognise a business leader who is implementing positive change, building a business, while motivating and inspiring his or her teams.

Kirsten Speirs, director of KDMedia, the operator of the awards, says: “In the ten years of the Scottish Legal Awards, this is the first time we will present a managing partner with an award, and clearly there has been no better time to do it. The award wasn’t open for entry as the judges didn’t need to look very far for some credible candidates who had gained praise from the market and respect from their peers. They discussed a wide range of firms and debated how they have positioned themselves strategically in the last year. Ultimately, they chose an individual who clearly fitted the bill and had delivered a truly remarkable year.”

Twenty three firms and companies have progressed to the awards finals of the prestigious programme which both recognises excellence in the Scottish legal profession and raises funds for charity.

Entry to the awards is free but entrants are requested to include a voluntary donation to Children 1st, the awards’ charity partner, with their submission. Spiers adds: “We have now collected over £100,000 for charity from these awards. It is vital that we continue to keep the competition fresh, high quality and appealing for everyone.”

Firms large and small have been announced as finalists across 13 categories, covering major aspects of legal services in Scotland and from all parts of the country. The shortlisted firms provide an intriguing snapshot of the sector with large, multipartner firms rubbing shoulders with niche and “boutique” outfits that have established a presence in a specialist service. Dunfermline-based Caritas Legal, for example, is Scotland’s only firm exclusively specialising in Adults With Incapacity Act work. Founder Lorna Brown is a finalist in the Specialist Lawyer of the Year category. She says: “Where there is no arrangement for power of attorney in place and someone suddenly loses capacity a conflict can emerge between the family and local authority. My advice is to think ahead.”

Long-established, conventionally structured firms with a pyramid of partners, associates, solicitors, paralegals and support staff are on the list, along with younger outfits opting for an alternative model.

Fox and Partners, for example, was created in 2010 as an employee-owned enterprise. The firm is a finalist in the Employment Team of the Year category and its founder, Carol Fox, is among the nominees for Specialist Lawyer of the Year.

She says: “We have been called the John Lewis of the legal profession, but I prefer radical, forward-thinking innovators.”

The highly coveted DX Firm of the Year award will be contested between four intriguingly different companies. Their shared attribute is the versatility they have shown in dealing with the challenges presented by broader difficulties in the economy since 2008.

With its head office in Bathgate and operating across central Scotland, Caesar and Howie has a turnover of £3 million. Senior partner David Borrowman says they are still broad based but “through our work with older people we have managed to transform ourselves from being a firm where most of our income came from property work”.

Harper Macleod LLP’s turnover rose to £19.3m in 2011-12, in part as a result of the firm’s push over the past few years in the areas of insurance, banking, public sector, retail, franchising, energy, debt recovery and insolvency.

The firm’s profile was raised with its appointment last year as official legal advisers to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

MBM Commercial specialises in company law and corporate finance, intellectual property, commercial property and dispute resolution, with a turnover in 2011-12 of £2.522m.

From its central Edinburgh offices Davidson Chalmers has a broad-based practice built around business and entrepreneurial support which turned over £2.5m in 2011-12. It is the only Scottish firm recognised by the Chambers Guide to the UK legal profession as experts in the highly specialised field of medical partnerships.

Who would be a judge?

Scott & Co Employment Team of the Year

Harper Macleod; Fox and Partners; Thompsons Scotland

Wolffe Design Energy Team of the Year

Harper Macleod; Davidson Chalmers

Family Law Team of the Year

Simpson & Marwick; Morisons Solicitors LLP; Drummond Miller; HBM Sayers; Harper Macleod

MCL Fund-raising Firm of the Year

Dundas & Wilson; Irwin Mitchell

Millar & Bryce Innovation Award

Simpson & Marwick; Thompsons Scotland; Dundas & Wilson; Caesar & Howie; Your Conveyancer; McEwan Fraser Legal; Scottish Arbitration Centre

Litigation Team of the Year

MBM Commercial; Allan McDougall; Drummond Miller; HBM Sayers; Irwin Mitchell

Scottish Paralegal Association Paralegal of the Year

Sharon Such, MHD Law; Claire Corbin, MBM Commercial; Joy Maclean, Drummond Miller; Ellen Matthews, HBM Sayers; Fraser Watson, Irwin Mitchell

Private Client Team of the Year

Eastons; Mackinnons;

Registers of Scotland Residential Property Team of the Year

McQueen Legal; Mackinnons; McEwan Fraser Legal

The Law Society of Scotland In-house Legal Team of the Year

Scottish Water; Standard Life

Barr Printers Trainee Firm of the Year

Winner will be revealed on the night

Bank of Scotland Specialist Lawyer of the Year

Brenda Mitchell, Thompsons Scotland; Carol Fox, Fox and Partners; Lorna Brown, Caritas Legal; Andy Drane, Davidson Chalmers; Stuart Easton, Eastons; Douglas Cowan, Harper Macleod

DX Firm of the Year

MBM Commercial; Davidson Chalmers; Harper Macleod; Caesar and Howie

The Scotsman Managing Partner Award

Lifetime Achievement Award

Winners will be revealed on the night