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

In-house: Morton Fraser big winner as firms line up for Edinburgh City Council panel


Morton Fraser has picked up four places on Edinburgh City Council’s £3.1m panel, being appointed alongside larger firms such as Pinsent Masons and CMS Cameron McKenna.

A review of the panel, which is also available to Stirling Council and West Lothian Council, was launched in August this year, led by the council’s head of legal and risk Carol Campbell with interim legal manager Kevin McKee. The contracts awarded are all for two year periods which can be extended for a further two years.

Morton Fraser, which has worked with the council for five years took the most spots including on the council’s general commercial panel, property, litigation and employment lots. The firm has a strong public sector focus and boasts more than 80 specialists.

Brodies, Harper Macleod, MacRoberts, and Shepherd & Wedderburn join Morton Fraser on the panel with the biggest budget, the general commercial panel, which the council expects to spend between £920,000 and £1,060,000 on.

Morton Fraser has also been appointed to the council’s property & planning panel, on which it spends between £530,000 and £610,000. Brodies also made the property panel, alongside Anderson Stratheren and Burness Paul.

The council’s employment panel comprises Harper Macleod, Morton Fraser, Anderson Strathen, MacRoberts and BTO Solicitors. Clyde & Co, trading through its new merger partner Simpson & Marwick, also made the cut. The litigation panel comprises Anderson Strathen, Morton Fraser and TC Young Solicitors.

The final panel, dubbed the ‘major projects’ lot includes CMS Cameron McKenna, Shepherd & Wedderburn and Pinsent Masons.

Morton Fraser partner Rory Alexander said: ‘The win is also our third from three public sector opportunities that we have tendered for in recent months, which is testament to the strength of our public sector team. We are trusted to provide best value and clarity in difficult circumstances and we are seeing a sustained period of growth for the firm as a result.’