Legal Business

All over: Morton Fraser and MacRoberts call off merger talks

All over: Morton Fraser and MacRoberts call off merger talks

Scottish firms Morton Fraser and MacRoberts have called off merger talks in recent weeks, Legal Business has learned.

The talks, which began last year, are thought to have reached an advanced stage, but according to a source were called off because any merger was ‘financially unworkable.’ It is understood that MacRoberts’ pension deficit and property liabilities were contributing factors in the discussions ending.

A spokesperson for MacRoberts said: ‘At any point we are in conversation with a number of individuals, teams and firms and it would be inappropriate to make any comment on the existence or otherwise of any such conversations.’

Both firms are around the same size, with revenue under the £20m mark and offices in Edinburgh and Glasgow. MacRoberts also has an office in Dundee. If the merger had been successful it would have created the sixth largest Scottish independent firm after Brodies, Burness Paull, Shepherd and Wedderburn, Maclay Murray & Spens and Dickson Minto.

The Scottish legal market is no stranger to mergers, with Addleshaw Goddard the latest firm to vote through a Scottish union with HBJ Gateley by June this year. Addleshaws has long wanted a presence in the Scottish market, with merger talks between the firm and Maclays called off last February.

In 2015 Clyde & Co successfully secured a merger with Scottish firm Simpson & Marwick which added around £30m to the firm’s top line.

The Anglo-Scottish tie-up continues a prolonged incursion by English firms north of the border in the last five years, which also includes McGrigors’ acquisition by Pinsent Masons in 2012 and CMS Cameron McKenna’s acquisition of Dundas & Wilson in 2014.

Read more: ‘Better together? – Those Anglo-Scots unions in focus’


Legal Business

Significant departures: DWF loses four-partner team to Scottish firm MacRoberts

Significant departures: DWF loses four-partner team to Scottish firm MacRoberts

MacRoberts has defied the depressed Scottish legal market by expanding to 49 partners, the highest in its history, after poaching four partners from DWF.

The Scottish firm is accelerating its growth drive after registering a slight rise in revenue in 2013/14 to just under £18m by hiring into its construction, real estate and projects groups.

Neil Amner, who was Scottish head of construction, infrastructure and projects at DWF, makes the switch after having advised Transport Scotland on the award of the new ScotRail service late last year. He is deputy president of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and is seen as a major coup for the firm.

Amner joins with projects partner Martin Gallaher, real estate partner Robin Corbett and DWF’s head of wind energy Martin Sales. The exits will be a major blow for DWF which merged with Scottish firm Biggart Baillie in 2012.

Like Amner, Gallaher focuses on rail and infrastructure procurement. Sales and Corbett focus largely on the energy sector, with the former’s client list centred on Scotland’s wind farm companies and Corbett’s based around the oil and gas sector. Corbett has had a string of management roles at DWF, having been Scottish head of education and UK chief of the mining and minerals group.

MacRoberts is seeking to add up to 10 lawyers to support the new partners, with the firm already expecting a 10% staffing expansion to over 240 people following the opening of a Dundee office in 2014.

The firm’s managing partner, John Macmillan, who was re-elected for a second term late last year, said: ‘Neil, Martin, Robin and Martin have been working together and therefore their simultaneous recruitment allows us to gain from substantial synergies of their individual practices.’

The firm hired two new partners last October with the arrival of project finance Rod Munro and construction lawyer Craig Bradshaw from Maclay Murray and Spens.