Burness Paull confident of growth as independent law firm

Heavyweight law firm Burness Paull is confident of growth ahead despite today reporting a relatively flat financial performance in its latest year.

'We don't want to end up as a 'north-shoring' operation,' said Burness Paull chairman Philip Rodney. Picture: Greg Macvean

Although more Scottish legal sector names are disappearing after mergers with larger players amid ongoing consolidation in the sector, chairman Philip Rodney also said the firm’s prospects as an independent firm headquartered north of the Border were strong.

• READ MORE: Legal sector news

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“I’m sure we would be an interesting prospect for another firm but we are committed to creating our own destiny as an independent – and if you look across Europe right now it is the independent law firms who are doing well,” he pointed out.

Rodney said the firm wanted to maintain its position in the Scottish market.

“We don’t want to end up as a ‘north-shoring’ operation. Our key market is in Scotland and we are applauded by our clients for maintaining our headquarters here and not being a branch office of another firm.”

Rodney’s comments came as the firm revealed that turnover for the financial year ending 31 July edged up 1 per cent to £53.8 million. Profit dipped by £500,000 to £22m but average profit per equity partner rose to £452,791 from £451,307 in 2015-16.

The headline financial performance meant that for the second year running the company-wide staff bonus scheme wasn’t triggered although Rodney said some bonuses were paid based on individual performance.

He described it as a “steady financial performance in what has been a bumpy year for the Scottish economy”.

“There will undoubtedly be more challenges to come as a result of the political and economic backdrop. However there will be opportunities for those who are prepared to be bold and embrace the future.”

The firm has this year embarked on a three-year growth strategy with particular opportunities for expansion seen in areas including energy, technology and tax.

In the past 12 months the firm has added eight partners across its Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow offices and total headcount has increased from 450 to 481.

“Our strategy builds on the successful platform that we have created. Growth will come from our agility in developing our service lines to support the changing needs of our clients both here and internationally. In planning for that, we have invested heavily in people and technology. This will enable us to develop our resource and provide operational efficiencies,” said Rodney.

The firm is one of a shrinking list of big, Scottish-headquartered law firms. Last month peer Maclay Murray & Spens announced it is to merge with Dentons, the world’s largest law firm as measured by number of lawyers.

In May, Scottish firm HBJ Gateley finalised a merger with England’s Addleshaw Goddard.