Glasgow-based Friends Legal acquires East Lothian’s largest firm of solicitors and estate agents

Glasgow-headquartered Friends Legal has acquired East Lothian’s largest firm of solicitors and estate agents.

The takeover of Garden Stirling Burnet - widely known as GSB - creates a business with an annual turnover in excess of £7 million and 60 staff in six offices across Scotland.

Friends Legal said it now had a “significant platform” to create one of the biggest specialist private client firms north of the Border.

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Under the deal, on disclosed financial terms, the Garden Stirling Burnet name will be retained, while becoming part of the Friends Legal network.

Angela Craig, Tony O'Malley and Alan Borrowman. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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However, “rapid investment” into the East Lothian firm’s 22-strong team across its four offices in Dunbar, Haddington, North Berwick and Tranent, will underpin ambitions to double the headcount and turnover in three years.

Tony O’Malley, managing partner of Friends Legal, said: “GSB is a great business with a brilliant reputation, fantastic people and an unmatched footprint across East Lothian. We will re-establish GSB in the local market by investing in its people, infrastructure and brand.

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“It’s the largest legal practice by footprint and headcount in the county but has perhaps lost market share in recent years. Our aim is to put it firmly back on the map by offering premium services at a fair price.

“That is our overriding priority and we will need to recruit to achieve these aims,” he added.

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While GSB is best known for its estate agency, executry and conveyancing work, a priority will be to unlock the potential of its whole private client team including family law and its letting business, its new owner said.

The acquisition will also enable Friends Legal to explore further consumer legal services, particularly in conveyancing and remortgaging. From its Glasgow HQ and another office in Edinburgh, it already provides volume personal injury and medical negligence services.

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O’Malley, who founded the Friends Legal brand in 2016, said GSB directors Alan Borrowman, Angela Craig and Ian Philp will remain with the firm for at least a year. New consultancy roles will “free them up to focus on work they enjoy while improving work-life balance”, Friends Legal said.

Borrowman added: “We would also like to wholeheartedly thank our loyal clients for their ongoing support and to reassure them that this merger will mean that Garden Stirling Burnet continues to be a leading legal presence here in East Lothian. Indeed, by becoming part of the Friends Legal network, our range of legal services to clients will become even more specialist yet accessible.

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“This is the right deal at the right time and will be fantastic for the dedicated and hard-working team we’ve established at GSB over many years. As directors, that is so important to us and we are thrilled with the long-term plans and prospects for the business and the role that we play in the community.”

After building his career as a litigation partner with Edinburgh firm Henderson Boyd Jackson, where he oversaw its successful volume claims division, O’Malley went on to launch Friends Legal by leading the Scottish management buyout of UK personal injury and insurance business the Parabis Group.

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