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McClure Naismith: 80 jobs saved, 42 made redundant

McClure Naismith
rag-out of McClure story
Administration forecast in Daily Business 10 days ago

Eighty partners and staff of McClure Naismith are moving to other legal firms and 42 are being made redundant after it went into administration on Friday.

Harper MacLeod and Maclay Murray & Spens have each taken five partners,  Burness Paull three, Morton Fraser and HBJ Gateley one each. These firms, and others, have hired a further 40 staff and discussions are under way regarding seven partners.

Executive chairman Robin Shannan, who admitted two weeks ago that the firm was seeking options over its future, is among five partners and 30 staff who have joined Maclays. He has been with McClure Naismith for more than 34 years and became executive chairman in October 2012.

The others joining Maclays are:  Wilson Aitken (property – Glasgow), Morag Campbell (corporate/finance – Glasgow), Frank Johnstone (consumer finance/debt recovery – Glasgow) and Philip Sewell (dispute resolution – London).

Kenneth Shand, chief executive of Maclays, said: “The opportunity to hire a talented and committed group of individuals such as this is rare. Those joining us will augment our existing teams, enabling us to further extend our client reach and capabilities. It reinforces our development of the firm through a multi-faceted approach, both nurturing internal talent and bringing in lateral hires.”

In 2013, Maclays hired seven partners from Semple Fraser, following that firm’s announcement that it had entered administration.

Harper Macleod is taking an eight-strong dispute resolution team from McClure, led by three partners, who will be joined by partners in real estate and corporate.

The litigation team is headed by partners John McHugh, E-Ming Fong and Suzanne McGarrigle, while the addition of Philip Sim in real estate and Scott Kerr to the corporate team will take the firm’s number of partners in Edinburgh to 18.

Professor Lorne Crerar, chairman of Harper Macleod, said: “We carried out a great deal of diligence to ensure that we brought in those who can add value to our offering to clients, particularly in Edinburgh, and have selected highly talented lawyers who will supplement what we already do.

“John, E-Ming and Suzanne specialise in areas which extend our litigation practice and their addition means we will have a six-partner strong litigation team based in Edinburgh. They are a very highly regarded commercial and public sector litigation team and by also bringing across their support team they will be able to hit the ground running.

“Both Philip and Scott are highly regarded practitioners who will both extend our reach in corporate and real estate work in the city, and complement our wider teams across the country.”

One associate, two solicitors and two assistants will also join Harper Macleod’s litigation team.

Professor Crerar added that Harper Macleod is intent on further growth. “I am in no doubt that the cycle of change has not yet completed and a balanced mixture of organic and acquisitive growth will be the key to our strategy for future success,” he said.

The recruits represent a  potential 6% boost to Harper Macleod’s turnover and takes the number of partners at the firm to 68.

Last year, Harper Macleod acquired private client firm Bird Semple, adding 35 staff to its Glasgow operation.

Burness Paull said three property lawyers – Steve Scott, Bob Binning and Colin Brown – will join its property division, headed by Tamar Tammes.

Tammes said: “Coming only days after Burness Paull’s annual figures show the property team had worked on deals running into several billions in value, this coup underlines our firm’s strategy of continuing to invest and build for the future.”

Burness Paull chairman Philip Rodney added: “We have had Steve and his team in our sights for some time. We are delighted to have recruited them and are excited by the synergies this will bring.

“On the back of a very successful year, the recruitment of this team kick-starts our dynamic growth strategy.”

John Blackwood from McClure’s banking division has joined HBJ Gateley while property finance expert Paul Kenneth has moved to Morton Fraser.

Partners who are still looking for work are: Ewen Brown – disputes, Glasgow; Alistair Croft – disputes, London; Ashok Ghosh – real estate, London; Stewart King – real estate, Glasgow; Jim Mackie, disputes, London; Colin Millar – financial services, Glasgow; Mark Parkhouse – financial services, London; Nils Reid – financial services, London; Kit Stenning – financial services, London; David Thomson – real estate, Glasgow and Andrew Williamson – financial services, London.

Tom MacLennan and Alexander Iain Fraser of FRP Advisory were appointed joint administrators to McClure Naismith. Mr MacLennan said: “We are pleased to have negotiated agreements facilitating employment with a wide range of firms and wish them and their new staff every success.

“We would also like to extend our appreciation to the Law Society of Scotland and the Solicitors Regulation Authority for their support.”

Commenting on McClure Naismith’s demise, Lorna Jack, chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland: “We are sorry to see it go into administration but understand this was the only viable option given the challenges faced by the business.

“It is clear that much work has already been undertaken to protect the interests of the firm’s clients and to minimise the disruption during the transfer of business which will now follow.  Equally, it is good to see so many of the firm’s staff and trainees being placed into other Scottish and UK firms.  However, there are many others who worked hard within McClure Naismith and who now face an extremely difficult and uncertain period.  We have a package of support and dedicated staff available to solicitors who are affected by the announcement and we will be offering that help to anyone who needs it.

“Whilst today’s announcement is regrettable, our own research shows increased optimism within the legal profession as well as a more buoyant legal market.  That said, the profession is undergoing phenomenal change with digitalisation and technology, changing expectations from clients and new entrants to the market all requiring firms to adapt and innovate in the way they do business.  It underlines the need for firms to be flexible and to modernise in what is a highly competitive market.”

Daily Business reported 10 days ago that McClure Naismith, established in 1826, was heading for administration on Friday after failing to secure its future.

The firm had 26 partners and more than 100 staff and said that it was looking at merging with a rival practice after its banking division suffered in the financial crisis and ensuing recession.

The practice was linked to a potential merger with Bond Dickinson, DWF and Irwin Mitchell as well as a number of Scottish competitors, but a hoped for “pre-pack” administration which would have seen the business immediately bought back was not achievable.

McClures’ turnover has dropped from a high of £15.4m 2007/08 to an estimated £10m in 2014/15 and is also believed to have a high level of debt.

Accounts for the 2014 year to April 30 are listed as “overdue” on the Companies House website.


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