Scottish law firm Anderson Strathern bids to takeover rivals

Alistair Dean and Murray McCall of Anderson Strathern. Picture: Jane Barlow
Alistair Dean and Murray McCall of Anderson Strathern. Picture: Jane Barlow
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A well-known Scottish legal firm unveiled two acquisitions yesterday and revealed it was looking for more as it seeks to become one of Scotland’s “top three” practices over the next few years.

Anderson Strathern also posted strong organic growth in its latest financial year to end-August 2015, with an 8.2 per cent jump in profits per equity partner to £174,000 from £161,000 in the previous 12 months.

The firm announced the acquisition of ADLP Solicitors, an Edinburgh-based firm specialising in dispute resolution in the construction sector.

It said a deal to take over Glasgow-based Jeffrey Aitken, which specialises in private client work, specialist road transport law and general litigation, was expected to complete on 11 April. ­Murray McCall, managing partner with Anderson Strathern, said: “With regard to ADLP, we felt construction was an area we needed to bolster.

“We identified a year ago that it was a sector that was starting to move again. And as you get a more buoyant economy you see litigation rise.”

He said the Jeffrey Aitken purchase was “fortunate timing” as it coincided with one of Anderson Strathern’s partners skilled in that sector retiring.

“Jeffrey Aitken approached us in the autumn,” McCall said. “We first talked with them five years ago, and they remembered.” Asked about possible future acquisitions, he said they were more likely to be bolt-on rather than a major strategic deal.

“We have done bolt-ons in recent years, but we are still keen to look around to see what is out there that fits with our strategy and culture,” he added.

“We would never want to rule out a substantial merger altogether. But I don’t want to upset the culture of the firm, that would be a deal-breaker. The problem is the bigger the practice [being acquired] the more difficult it is to preserve the culture.”

McCall said that nevertheless the business was “targeting a top three slot as a purely Scottish legal firm over the next few years.

It would probably be fair to say we are currently in the number five or six slot”.

Alistair Dean, who co-founded ADLP as a partner in 2005, after he left Anderson Strathern to set it up, said he was “delighted” to return to his former employer – “clearly a firm in growth mode” – as a partner.

McCall said 2015 had been a “great year” for the firm, with important client wins in the public sector such as Scottish Water last summer and Transport Scotland, which was added in February this year.

Anderson Strathern’s net profit rose to £7.2 million from £7m, on turnover at £21.7m up from £21.5m. There was no contribution from acquisitions, while cash held at the end of August was £3.8m.

McCall said one-third of that money was likely to be earmarked for IT, infrastructure and people.