Legal awards: Top firm refocuses on success

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DAVIDSON Chalmers’ success in winning the DX Firm of the Year award is a victory for all those legal businesses who were forced to take a long, hard look at themselves during the downturn – and who emerged successfully on the other side.

“We are absolutely delighted to be recognised after our strategy of re-focusing the business really bore fruit in 2012,” says Davidson Chalmer’s managing partner, Andrew Chalmers.

Like many other firms, Davidson Chalmers was heavily reliant on commercial property before the economic travails set in; it represented around 50 per cent of turnover, but that has now been reduced to 25 per cent as a larger slice of the business is taken up by renewable energy, dispute resolution and employment.

“We have done well in these areas and there is potential for further growth,” says Chalmers. He highlights the hire of partner June Gilles after the demise of Semple Fraser as a key move in beefing up the renewable energy team under partner Andy Drane. “Renewables is a good place to be right now and our involvement is no flash in the pan,” says Chalmers. “Andy worked on his first wind farm project in 1998 and has huge experience – and the addition of June’s skills as a planning lawyer is a key addition.”

Chalmers also highlights health as an important area for the firm in 2012. Davidson Chalmers acts for more GP practices across Scotland than any other law firm and is the only Scottish member of NASSAD (the National Association of Specialist Solicitors Advising Doctors).

Although Chalmers thinks the judges recognised the firm’s strength in key sectors, he is keen to stress the firm’s collaborative approach. “We really do work as a team, we don’t just talk about it,” he says. “We work across the firm to maximise opportunities and introduce clients to all departments. We want all of them to do as well as they can. I am told in some other firms, individuals and departments
 can guard work very closely.

“We are not like that at Davidson Chalmers and we are delighted that our strategy of refocussing the business clearly impressed the judges.”

There is praise for the detail of the entry in the judges’ comments, while Wilson Smith, regional sales manager for DX, long-term sponsor of the awards, says: “These awards provide validation of the efforts the winners make each year to provide great service. We are pleased to be part of that process with every Firm of the Year since 2010 using DX to help them in their pursuit of excellence.”

The other top award for current practitioners went to Philip Rodney of Burness Paull & Williamsons, who was named chairman/managing partner of the Year. This category was not open to nomination, but Rodney stood out after leading highly-successful central belt firm Burness into a merger with Aberdeen top dogs Paull & Williamson to create “a three-city powerhouse serving 
clients in Scotland, the UK and globally”. Rodney said: “I really see the award as a team accolade and am very proud that our strategy has been acknowledged.”