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Getting on with it: resilient market provides growth for Scottish independents

Scottish independents Brodies and Shepherd and Wedderburn have continued their strong growth tracks despite ongoing uncertainty.

Brodies, Scotland’s largest firm, had a particularly strong year, as revenue rose 12% to £76.9m and profit came in at £37.4m, up 14%. This was up on the previous year’s flat growth of 3% and 4% respectively, with revenue up 49% over the last five years.

It was the first full financial year under new managing partner Nick Scott (pictured), who told Legal Business client activity had proved resilient despite political and economic uncertainty. The firm’s practice areas – banking and finance, corporate and commercial, litigation, personal and family and real estate – had all grown, he said.

‘There’s no certainty in anything anymore, people have realised they just have to get on with it,’ he commented. ‘We did anticipate that there would be a point when everyone just sat on their hands – we thought that might be in the lead up to and immediate aftermath of March – but for us, client activity continued at a decent level all year.’

The firm added ten partners through six promotions and four lateral hires, pushing the overall number of partners past 100 for the first time. Key mandates included acting for private equity fund Accel-KKR on the £1.16bn sale of cloud software company Episerver Group, acting for Drum Property Group in a deal with Barclays to develop a new headquarters in Glasgow, and advising the Scottish Parliament’s Finance and Constitution Committee regarding Brexit.

Scott said the firm would look to invest further this year, adding further lateral hires, as well as taking new premises in Edinburgh from next year and rolling out a rebrand. While activity had remained strong because of client demand, Scott also pointed to increased market share as helping drive revenue.

‘There’s a limit to how much we can control in terms of the political and economic backdrop,’ he commented. ‘It’s a fool’s errand to make any predictions to be honest, you have to make the progress while you can.’

Meanwhile, Shepherd and Wedderburn had a relatively flat year, as revenue rose 4% to £55.7m and profits were up by the same percentage to £22.8m. Over the last five years, the firm has grown turnover by 45%: just behind Brodies’ growth trajectory.

The firm made several lateral partner hires, which included the expansion of its property and infrastructure practice with a trio of partners from DWF, as well as opening an office in Singapore.

Shepherd and Wedderburn managing partner Andrew Blain commented: ‘All divisions were busy and reported growth in 2018/19. Although we have yet to see what the outcome of Brexit will be, we remain cautiously optimistic about the year ahead.’