Scots duo secure £38m tie-up in latest merger north of the border

Scots law firms Burness and Paull & Williamsons (P&W) have agreed a merger deal which will create a combined firm with revenues of around £38m.

The tie-up, which will come into effect on 1 December under the name Burness Paull & Williamsons, will see Burness gain a new presence in Aberdeen, with P&W benefitting from Burness’s Glasgow base.

Both firms currently have offices in Edinburgh, with P&W’s smaller team in the Scottish capital set to move into Burness’s local premises.

The merger – talks over which have been ongoing for around six months -will grant Burness an entrance into the Aberdeen oil and gas market, a target the firm has been eyeing for a number of years.

Based on 2011-12 numbers, the merged firm will have 60 partners -35 from Burness and 25 from P&W – 158 lawyers and around 400 staff. A small number of back office redundancies are expected a result of the combination.

In 2011-12 Burness posted turnover of £24.3m while P&W recorded figures of £13.3m, with profits per equity partner standing at £369,000 and £268,000 respectively.

Burness chairman Philip Rodney and managing partner Ian Wattie will both fulfil the same roles at the combined firm. P&W managing partner Scott Allan will become deputy managing partner, with P&W chairman Gordon Buchan sitting on the board as a consultant.

The new firm will continue to operate exclusively north of the border, declining to follow the path set by other Scottish firms which have opened in London, as it looks to become the Scotland’s number one commercial law firm.

Rodney (pictured) commented: “We have good referral links with some of the biggest London firms so it helps not having an office there, as we are not seen as a direct rival. Firms such as Dundas & Wilson, Maclay Murray & Spens and Shepherd and Wedderburn all started in Scotland but now have a London presence.”

Allan added: “Our culture, ambitions and focus on quality are shared; our geography, clients and expertise are complementary and our combined objective, to be the leading Scottish commercial law firm serving Scottish, UK and international clients in and from Scotland, reflects our common ethos.”

The Scottish market has seen a steady stream of mergers in recent months, with Biggart Baillie tying up with UK firm DWF last July and Shoosmiths agreeing a union with Edinburgh’s Archibald Campbell & Harley in the autumn, while the biggest deal in recent times saw McGrigors merge into Pinsent Masons this May.

Meanwhile, a number of other potential tie-ups have fallen by the wayside, including a mooted union of Maclay Murray and southwest firm Bond Pearce, as well as failed talks between Dundas and Bircham Dyson Bell.