Magnus Swanson takes role in management deal to buy Law At Work

VETERAN Scottish lawyer Magnus Swanson yesterday helped lead a management buy-out of fixed-fee specialist Law At Work (Law) which has severed ties with parent firm Maclay, Murray & Spens.

Swanson, a former chief executive at Maclays, is chairman of Law and will be joined in the deal by chief executive Jane Wright and director of legal services Donald MacKinnon.

The trio have bought the 80-plus per cent formerly held by Maclays for an undisclosed sum. DLA Piper and Craig Corporate acted as advisers to the MBO team. The buy-out has been financed primarily by HSBC, though Law’s directors – who already owned a minority stake in the business – also invested their own funds.

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The deal comes amid a strategic review at Maclays which has appointed Deloitte to spearhead an analysis of options.

Maclays, which abandoned merger talks with Bristol’s Bond Pearce at the start of this year, posted a 3.5 per cent decline 
in turnover to £46.9 million 
in its latest set of results.

Wright said a buy-out had been on the cards “for a number of years”.

Now completed, she said the break would dispel any perceptions that Law is a traditional legal firm, giving the business the chance to emphasise its “very different” structure and services.

Working only on behalf of employers, Law offers companies advice on employment, health and safety legislation on a fixed-fee basis that has proven popular amid the continuing recession.

“This will clarify our position in the market,” she said. Set up in 2001, Law has expanded to a staff of 30 working on behalf of about 250 clients. Turnover last year was up 23 per cent to £1.53m while profits were 5.2 per cent higher.

The company has historically worked out of Maclays offices in Edinburgh and Glasgow, but will now re-locate to separate sites in both cities. The main hub will be in Glasgow, but with Law increasingly receiving enquiries from potential clients throughout the UK, the firm is also set on growth.

“As the business expands we will look to establish offices elsewhere,” Wright said.

Swanson, a board member at Law since 2001 and now the largest shareholder, said the de-merger of the business would allow it to develop in its specialist field. He retired from Maclays in May and was keen to get involved with growing businesses.

“I saw excellent potential in Law At Work and have been impressed by the business model.”

MacKinnon, who joined Law in 2002, became director of legal services in 2006 and is the company’s most senior lawyer. He said the economic climate, combined with significant forthcoming changes in employment law, would continue generating opportunities for Law.

“We have blazed a trail for a new way of working and the introduction of alternative business models will see further changes in a fast-changing legal landscape,” he added.