INDEPENDENT law firm Morton Fraser has chalked up revenue growth of nine per cent, topping the £20 million mark for annual billings for the first time in its history (£21.7m). It also saw profits soar 13% in the year to April 30, 2018, with revenue having grown 60% over the last five years.
The Scottish firm, which employs over 270 staff, attributed its growth to its investment in people. And it declared its strong commercial performance would result in another increase to Morton Fraser’s performance-related bonus scheme, which will reward all staff with up to 13% of their annual salary.
Chris Harte, chief executive, said that the quality of the team at Morton Fraser was the “one consistent factor underpinning this period of growth for our business”. Mr Harte said: “We have some exceptional talent and some of the best specialist teams in the country. The roster of truly independent Scottish firms is dwindling, and our focus on talent is setting us apart.”
Performance highlights included a “fantastic year” for the firm’s commercial real estate division, boosted by a strong performance in London. It also advised Rockspring on the purchase of 9-10 St Andrew Square in Edinburgh and BAM Properties on its role in the city’s largest speculative office development at Capital Square.
Morton Fraser’s corporate team played an integral part in Quattro Group’s multi-million-pound acquisition of Scotland’s big gest privately-owned plant hire operator, AB2000.
Mr Harte said that the firm, which merged with Macdonalds five years ago and has offices in Edinburgh and Glasgow, continued to work with longstanding clients including Diageo for which Morton Fraser is lead legal adviser for the global drinks giant’s commercial real estate work in the UK.
It also saw an increase in its international work, with a growing number of referrals through the global network Interlaw.
“It would be wrong to assume that a proudly independent firm in Scotland can only do business in Scotland,” Mr Harte said.
“Our connections and reputation extend not only into the City of London, but also internationally.
“We help overseas clients to assess their options here and also support domestic clients in other jurisdictions too,” he added. “We are the only Scottish firm in the Interlaw network but you still need a reputation for excellence to succeed internationally.”
The firm, said Mr Harte, had spent the last five years “getting into the right shape and investing in people”, and has increased its headcount by 30%. “That has been the bedrock of success for us,” he said. “A lot of people have been working really hard to get us to this stage and it is still about trying to retain and attract the right people.
“As we become more successful it makes it easier for us to have conversations with people we think might be interested in working for us and we have had people choose to relocate to Scotland rather than move to another firm in London, for example.”
There was also an increase in profits and turnover for international law firm Pinsent Masons which employs 540 staff in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Its unaudited results for 2017/18 showed a 6% increase in global turnover to £450m. Fees billed rose by 10% on the previous year. In the last five years, turnover has increased by more than 40% while profit growth has jumped by 60%.
The results follow a period of investment which has included setting up a technology and financial services-focused practice in Dublin. In the last year, Pinsent Masons has added an energy and infrastructure practice in Perth to complement its Australian business in Sydney and Melbourne.