Morton Fraser and MacRoberts unveil merger deal to challenge Scotland’s top tier

Merger partners herald ‘big four of independent firms’ with deal to create 250-lawyer practice with £46m turnover

Neil Kennedy, managing partner of MacRoberts, with Chris Harte, CEO of Morton Fraser Image courtesy of MacRoberts

Morton Fraser and MacRoberts have announced their intention to merge, in a move that promises to catapult the combined firm into Scotland’s top-tier. 

The merger of equals, in terms of size, will create a firm with more than 250 lawyers and annual revenues in the region of £46m – 30% more than its next rival behind the larger trio of Shepherd & Wedderburn (£66.7m), Burness Paull (£82.2m) and Brodies, which broke through the £100m barrier this year, reporting an 8% increase in turnover to £106.25m. 

The merger partners said the deal, which is expected to go live on 1 November, would make it part of a new ‘big four’ of independent Scottish firms.

Chris Harte, currently chief executive of Morton Fraser, will become chief executive of the newly merged business, which will be known as Morton Fraser MacRoberts. Meantime, Neil Kennedy, MacRoberts’ managing partner, will become chief operating officer.

Harte commented: “The time has come for a new style of law firm within Scotland’s top tier. Morton Fraser and MacRoberts are complementary firms, built on similar values, we are both known for our user-friendly, people-centred approach and those qualities will continue to drive our thinking for the future.

“By merging, we will compete more strongly in our chosen markets, while offering something truly unique for the top tier.”

Edinburgh-based Morton Fraser reported an 8% increase in annual revenue of £25.7m for the year to 30 April 2022. The firm houses a team of around 190 professionals according to its website. 

Glasgow-based MacRoberts, which has a team of around 160 professionals hasn’t reported its 2023 numbers. However, its LLP accounts for the year to April 30 2022 reveal a 17% rise in profit before tax, members’ remuneration, and profit shares to £6.9m against a 10% gain in turnover to £20.6m. 

MacRoberts said on its website that the two firms “share some strengths” but are broadly different in terms of the sectors and services on which they focus. MacRoberts specialises in energy and infrastructure, while Morton Fraser has a larger client base in corporate real estate and housebuilding. 

“Additionally, clients of both firms will now have access to a range of complementary services, including advice on pensions, share schemes, corporate tax, intellectual property and immigration law,” MacRoberts said. 

It added that both firms had already undertaken an assessment of their current clients to avoid possible conflicts of interest. “Clients for whom potential conflicts may exist will be contacted individually, though we do not expect there to be many cases,” the firm said. 

Kennedy commented: “Joining our collective talents and resources will help us to accelerate our growth, offering greater strength in depth and more wide-ranging services to clients. We will be focusing heavily on how our newly merged business can invest in talent and technology.”

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