McClure Naismith falls into administration

One of Scotland’s oldest legal firms has collapsed into administration after months of speculation about its financial health.

McClure Naismith has fallen into administration
McClure Naismith has fallen into administration

However, it was understood last night that administrators for McClure Naismith, founded in Glasgow almost 190 years ago, were hopeful that a “reasonable number” of jobs could be saved amid ongoing talks with a number of firms.

McClure Naismith, which had 26 partners and more than 100 staff, had been more than seven months late in filing its annual accounts and recently said that it was looking at the possibility of merging with a rival practice after its banking division suffered at the hands of the financial crisis and ensuing recession.

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Tom MacLennan and Iain Fraser, partners at insolvency practice FRP Advisory, have been appointed joint administrators.

The practice was headed by London-based executive chairman Robin Shannan, who had been with the firm for more than 34 years.

Last week, amid mounting speculation that the firm was poised to appoint administrators in the hope of securing a “pre-pack” rescue deal, Shannan said it was carrying out a strategic review of the business and was assessing “all options”, including a possible tie-up.

He admitted: “We are finding that medium-sized, independent firms such as ours lack the scale needed to compete.”

The most recent available accounts show that turnover fell to £12 million for the 12 months to 30 April 2013, down from £13.1m the previous year.

Profits before partners’ pay and profit share dropped to £2.7m, from almost £3m in 2012, while remuneration for members of the limited liability partnership (LLP) remained broadly unchanged at just over £1m.

In April, McClure Naismith admitted to an “embarrassing” blunder, after receiving an official warning that it could have been struck off the Companies House register and dissolved.

At the time, Mr Shannan told The Scotsman that a notice received by the firm had been misread and it did not write back to Companies House to confirm that the LLP remained a trading entity. The striking-off threat was subsequently lifted. McClure Naismith’s accounts were due to be submitted at the end of January and the firm had said that it was working with auditor Deloitte to resolve “technical issues” and that it was poised to file the accounts “soon”.

A private company can be fined £1,500 if its accounts are more than six months overdue. Failure to file annual returns or accounts is also a criminal offence that can result in directors being fined personally.

McClure Naismith was founded in Glasgow in 1826, opening its Edinburgh office in 1979 and a base in London in 1991.

Its collapse comes less than a year after the demise of another high-profile law firm, Tods Murray. It was bought out of administration by rival Shepherd & Wedderburn in October.