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Growth for Scottish independents Brodies and Shepherd Wedderburn as uncertainty looms

Scottish independents Brodies and Shepherd and Wedderburn have continued to grow despite a backdrop of what both describe as political and economic uncertainty.

For Brodies, a 3% uptick in turnover for the financial year represents its eighth consecutive year of top-line growth, while Shepherd and Wedderburn reported record revenue and profit of £53.5m and £22m respectively.

Revenue at Brodies rose to £68.59m, relatively flat year-on-year but up more than 31%, or £16.5m, since 2014. Profit this year increased 4% to £32.9m, and has risen nearly 40% over the same timeframe. This period represents the firm’s previous strategic cycle, which normally runs for three years but was extended to four following the Brexit referendum.

Managing partner Nick Scott (pictured), who took the role from longstanding incumbent Bill Drummond in April, told Legal Business the sustained growth validated the firm’s approach of having a strategy and sticking to it.

‘We don’t look at the growth rate from one year to the next, we need to look at the trend. We still see plenty of opportunity for us to grow.’

Highlights included advising the shareholders of Barrhead Travel Group on its acquisition by US travel company Travel Leaders Group and advising Craig Group on the sale of North Star Shipping in one of Scotland’s largest M&A deals. The firm also disposed of its personal injury business, which it said meant overall revenue was up £4m, or 6%, on a like for like basis with last year.

Scott’s appointment to managing partner brings with it a fresh three-year strategic cycle, which he said focused on there being growing opportunities for Scotland-based clients, clients investing in Scotland, and Scotland-headquartered law firms.

The oil and gas sector was turning around, while real estate and corporate and commercial activity was strong. Brodies had promoted five new partners in construction, private client services, real estate, corporate and litigation to reflect where it saw potential for growth. It also recently hired Tony Jones QC in its advocacy unit, the firm’s 98th partner, and added an office in Dingwall over the last year.

Scott said the political and economic uncertainty presented opportunities alongside the challenges: ‘One must never assume any particular event is good or bad, it’s never that black and white. That’s the lesson people in Scotland have learned over the last decade.’

Meanwhile, fellow Scottish leader Shepherd and Wedderburn’s record year saw revenue and profit rise 6% and 10% respectively. The firm has 78 partners across Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and London.

Highlights from the year included advising FanDuel on its proposed merger with Paddy Power Betfair, as well as becoming the first top 100 UK law firm to offer funded litigation in partnership with litigation funder Burford Capital.

Chief executive Stephen Gibb said it had been a busy period and Scotland was an attractive target for UK inward investment following the fall in the value of the sterling after the Brexit vote.

He commented: ‘Despite uncertainty over the outcome of Brexit negotiations and global macroeconomic trends, our UK and overseas clients have continued to be active, particularly in sectors in which we have market-leading expertise such as clean energy, real estate, construction, food and drink, technology and regulation. We remain cautiously optimistic about the year ahead.’