Maclay Murray & Spens ‘open minded’ about merger

Chief Executive Kenneth Shand says the firm is considering its options. Picture: Contributed.Chief Executive Kenneth Shand says the firm is considering its options. Picture: Contributed.
Chief Executive Kenneth Shand says the firm is considering its options. Picture: Contributed.
Law firm Maclay Murray & Spens (MMS) is considering jumping on the consolidation bandwagon sweeping the Scottish legal sector, its chief executive said yesterday.

Speaking after MMS announced a 30 per cent jump in profits for the last financial year, Kenneth Shand said the firm was mulling its strategic options as it tries to expand into the fastest growing markets.

“I would say we are looking at [consolidation] and we are open minded about it,” he told The Scotsman. “We absolutely haven’t ruled it out.”

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However, he added that neither is a merger the firm’s top objective, and stressed that there is no deal currently in the pipeline.

“We are looking at investing in growth in the right areas, and to some extent we have done that already,” he added. “We will look at areas, both geographically and sector-wise, that carry the most opportunities.

“There are different ways in which we can achieve that, including large scale mergers or bolting on teams.”

Shand’s comments follow a string of mergers and takeovers that have transformed the Scottish legal landscape.

Scotland’s largest law firm, Dundas & Wilson, was swallowed by London-based CMS Cameron McKenna earlier this year, while in 2012 Pinsent Masons merged with Glasgow-based McGrigors

And just last month, three east of Scotland firms joined forces to form a larger block. Thorntons, Tayside’s largest law firm, announced it was combining with smaller rivals Murray Donald and Steel Eldridge Stewart, both based in Fife.

Shand, right, said that MMS had already been bulking up some of its team by moving staff internally and hiring more people.

The firm has offices in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London, and Shand said the best opportunities geographically were currently in London and Aberdeen, where the economy has been gathering steam fast.

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The wider recovery boosted the commercial law firm’s practice in the 12 months to 31 May, with turnover increasing by 7.3 per cent to £43.3 million.

Profit available to all members reached £14.1m, up from £10.8m the previous year, while profit per equity partner increased by £50,000 to £261,000.

Particularly strong performances in corporate, tax, real estate, construction and financial services activity allowed the firm to invest further in its teams, including the appointment of five lawyers to partner level in the course of the last financial year, with an additional four lawyers promoted to partner on 1 June.

Shand said: “Maclay Murray & Spens is in excellent shape, both at a strategic and operational level.

“The legal sector has faced a period of considerable economic uncertainty and has also had to tackle structural change. We have by no means been immune to these challenges but I am confident we have a very strong platform from which to move forward.”

He said the underlying trend was even stronger than suggested by the figures and conditions had continued to improve since the start of the current trading period.

Shand expects a slow summer in the Scottish offices as the summer’s sporting events and the looming independence referendum prove a distraction for businesses, but he believes the improving trend will continue after that.