It has been a choppy year for the Scottish economy but local independent Burness Paull has used a 30% increase in international mandates to drive its ninth consecutive year of revenue growth.
The firm’s revenue for the year to 31 July 2018 rose 7% to £57.6m, while profit lifted 8% to £23.8m. Chairman Peter Lawson (pictured), who took on the role at the start of August alongside new managing partner Tamar Tammes after the firm changed its leadership for the first time in a decade, told Legal Business he was pleased given it had been a tougher year for the Scottish economy.
‘We’ve set a three-year growth plan and one year in we’re absolutely on track.’
Lawson pointed to a recovery in oil prices, which resulted in growth for the Aberdeen market, as well as investment in renewable energy and technology. Major deals included advising on Savannah’s $125m fundraising and reverse takeover of Seven Energy, as well as the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) listings of i3 Energy, Springfield Properties and Beeks Financial Cloud.
‘Last year was a pretty flat year for the sector, this year there has been a bounce back. Oil prices are a big factor in the Scottish economy, and Aberdeen is a significant part of our economy.’
But the past year was the first in which emphasis on international business, a strategy implemented about three years ago, has been borne out in the results. International clients saw Scotland as increasingly attractive for inward investment and the firm had people on the ground in the US, China, Norway, Canada, India, Germany and Israel every week. This year also saw Burness appointed to the Lex Mundi network of independent law firms.
‘When we speak to clients they see Scotland as a cracking place to do business,’ said Lawson. ‘No doubt the weak pound has helped inbound investment across the UK as a whole but that – combined with it being a good, stable, economy, even with Brexit there – means clients looking to expand their businesses globally are looking at the UK and thinking it’s a safe place to do business.’
Burness Paull’s performance mirrors growth at fellow Scottish independents Brodies and Shepherd and Wedderburn, which saw revenue increases of 3% and 6% respectively. All three firms have seen revenue rise 49% over the past five years.
Burness Paull is paying a 5% bonus to its employees as a result of the performance. The firm has 317 lawyers and 67 partners, promoting five partners the past financial year and hiring former Pinsent Masons restructuring partner Michael Thomson.
Lawson said the changing geopolitical environment and technology would continue to put pressure on prices and the way law firms operated. But he is confident there would be future growth.
‘We think that there will be strong activity, we’ve seen a real increase in capital markets work in the energy sector and private equity will continue to be active. We’re confident that the Scottish market will continue to get strong inward investment.’
For the latest on the Scottish legal market, read ‘Scotland: All our yesterdays’ (£)