Legal Business Blogs

Leadership: Maclay Murray & Spens CEO Smylie to step down as Shand takes the reins

After a tough three years Maclay Murray & Spens’ (MMS) chief executive Chris Smylie is to step down from his role, with corporate head Kenneth Shand to take over the reins of a firm which has seen revenue drop 33% since its £61.1m high in 2008 but is now executing significant changes out of a root and branch strategic review.

Smylie, who has chosen not to stand for a second term, will return to his role as a partner in MMS’ planning team. In the interim, he will work with Shand to ensure a smooth transition to becoming CEO in June.

The strategic review implemented by Smylie has seen the firm place a renewed emphasis on its London office and Robert Laing, chairman of MMS, said: ‘On behalf of the partnership I would like to take this opportunity to publicly acknowledge Chris’ outstanding contribution to the firm over his time as chief executive. Through a period of unprecedented turbulence in the legal sector he has piloted the firm with a steady hand and has been assured and resolute in his leadership.

‘He initiated and then implemented a root and branch strategic review of the firm, which has resulted in MMS realigning itself much more closely to the new marketplace and the changing requirements of our outstanding client base. One outcome of that strategic review was to underline the importance of our London city office to the firm, as we match the ambitions and demands of clients, who operate more and more at a global level. The wisdom of that approach, in the face of many of our competitors advocating retrenchment to Scotland, is now becoming clear.’

Smylie added: ‘The last few years have been testing for the legal profession and even as the economy recovers, many challenges remain. We recognise that the legal world has changed irrevocably in the last few years and we are committed to taking the significant decisions to ensure the firm has the correct capabilities and focus for the future. Kenneth is the right person to build on this strategy and I wish him well in his new role.’

The Scottish market has been notoriously difficult to make money in over the past few years and MMS has suffered disappointing financial results, seeing its revenue drop by 13% to £40.9m and profit per equity partner down by 22% to £211,000 at the end of last financial year.

The firm began a strategic review of its business in June 2011, which was temporarily put on hold when it entered merger talks with legacy firm Bond Pearce (now Bond Dickinson); discussions which never came to fruition.

However, in September MMS confirmed plans to make up to 30 legal and support staff redundant across its Edinburgh, Glasgow and London offices in a range of practice areas, particularly property and corporate.

LLP results released earlier this month showed that its net profit was down 21.8% from £13.3m to £10.4m, with headcount down by 22 fee-earners as staff costs were cut 7.2% from £18m to £16.7m. The highest-earning partner took home £292,000, a 26% cut on £397,000 the year before.