The deal, unveiled today, is being billed as a merger but the Aitken Nairn name will disappear while its two partners – Kenneth Stanley and Morag Yellowlees – will transfer over to the much larger Lindsays operation along with 15 members of staff.
It takes Lindsays partner count to 45 with in excess of 200 staff making it one of the larger indigenous law firms, with a history that stretches back more than 200 years.
The marriage comes amid a backdrop of consolidation and turmoil within Scotland’s legal marketplace. Three of the country’s one-time “big four” – Dundas & Wilson, McGrigors and Maclay Murray & Spens – have merged with larger, global players, the last of these most recently with international giant Dentons. There have also been a series of domestic tie-ups and a number of failures, including the demise of Tods Murray and Pagan Osborne.
Alasdair Cummings, managing partner of Lindsays, which is headquartered in Edinburgh with additional offices in Dundee, Glasgow and North Berwick, said his firm had undertaken discussions with Aitken Nairn “a couple of years ago but the timing just didn’t seem right”.
He added: “We pressed the pause button, then began talking again in May of this year and it quickly became apparent that the timing was now right and one thing led to another.”
“It is a very fast changing marketplace that we are operating in with a lot of consolidation of late. Our strategy is very much that we are going to be an independent Scottish firm that is Scottish managed. We have no aspirations to go down south.
“Our way of growth is either through lateral hires or when great opportunities such as Aitken Nairn come along,” Cummings stressed.
The firm, which was founded in 1815, also undertakes referral work for London legal firms that require Scottish-based advice for their clients.
Asked if the legal market north of the Border was likely to witness further mergers in the coming months, Cummings said: “I’d be surprised if there aren’t”.
Stanley said: “This is an exciting time for us. Our clients will be able to take advantage of Lindsays’ court department, a much bigger property department with more expertise and they can handle commercial transactions. As a small firm it can sometimes be quite difficult dealing with the more complex stuff.”
The Aitken Nairn staff will join Lindsays in its offices at Caledonian Exchange.
Yellowlees added: “We look forward to bringing further benefits to our clients through access to additional areas of expertise such as family law as well as employment, corporate and commercial advice for our clients with business interests.”