Merger pays off as Scottish law firm reports positive start to 2019

We spent a lot of time getting to know the CCW partners during the course of negotiations last year, so I was confident they were going to fit well into WJM and really make an impact early on."
We spent a lot of time getting to know the CCW partners during the course of negotiations last year, so I was confident they were going to fit well into WJM and really make an impact early on."
Promoted by Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP

When Scottish law firm Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP (WJM) acquired CCW Business Lawyers last December, its team increased substantially to 31 partners and 60 fee earners.

The enlarged WJM also opened up a range of additional services to its clients and gained an office in Dunfermline.

A leading light at WJM now reports that the first two months of the tie-up have been “very positive”, stating that optimism is high at the beginning of the firm’s 165th year in business.

Fraser Gillies, managing partner at WJM, says: “The team has integrated well. One of the key factors when looking at any potential merger is the cultural fit –you need to decide if something makes sense, and if there is a clash of cultures then it is not going to work.

“We spent a lot of time getting to know the CCW partners during the course of negotiations last year, so I was confident they were going to fit well into WJM and really make an impact early on.

“Now they have arrived and indeed have made a positive impact.”

Gillies points to the firm’s work in renewables, family business, health and care, and telecommunications as being key areas of focus.

He goes on to say that the aim of acquiring Dunfermline-based CCW was not only to add to WJM’s long-standing presence on the east coast – it has an office in Edinburgh’s St Andrew Square – but also to strengthen the firm’s corporate and commercial property services.

This division saw huge success towards the end of last year when WJM assisted Northern Ireland-based Lotus Group in securing a Dundee property portfolio worth £60 million in November.

This was comprised of 45 properties in the City of Discovery, including units in the Marketgait and Wester Gourdie Industrial Estate, and a range of mixed-use assets.

Gillies says that the expansion of WJM is part of a growth plan which dates back to 2015, when the firm consolidated with Inverness-based MacArthur & Co and brought annual turnover to a combined total of £7 million.

In this latest takeover, the fullservice commercial firm will benefit from the expertise of new partners John Clarke, Stephen Cotton, Michael Dewar and Alison Marshall, and eight additional employees.

Gillies reveals that a main driver for bringing them in was a shared ethos between the two businesses.

He says: “There are two things that gave me some confidence early on in our discussions with CCW partners, and that was the way we run our respective businesses and our attitudes to our partners, staff and our employees.

“We have always been a very collegiate firm and very interested in the welfare of our employees, staff and of each other. Yes, we are running a business, but we are also a partnership and so we need to be able to support each other.

“We do feel a responsibility to our employees, whose livelihoods depend on the business doing well.

We haven’t lost that approach and the decisions we make should be of interest to the firm as a whole.”

Gillies believes it was this outlook that assured the partners at CCW, which marked 15 years in business in 2018.

He explains: “Both of our firms have always had a similar focus on client services and relationships.

“The approach is about doing everything you can in looking after your clients affairs, to get to know them and really to be their trusted advisor and the person that they phone about any part of their business.”

Gillies hopes the merger and new office in Dunfermline will pave the way for WJM to expand its presence in Fife, adding to the firm’s headquarters in Glasgow and its other offices in the Capital, Dunblane and Inverness.

But, in the meantime, Gillies says that 2019 will be a year of consolidation with the focus on getting the most out of the merger.

He adds: “We are in a period of growth and there is a real momentum. We are feeling optimistic about the future with our size and the focus that we have.”

For more information visit https://www.wjm.co.uk/