Thursday, August 30, 2007

Legal profession will prepare for opening of legal services markets despite orders from legal chiefs against planned reforms

Oh what a strange week this has been with regard to news on the access to legal services issue.

Law Society of Scotland Chief Executive Douglas Mill writing in the Herald newspaper on Monday appearing in the Herald newspaper on Monday, asking for all to input into a debate on the opening up of the legal services market in Scotland, but reminding everyone that only ideas which he agrees with will be followed (chuckle) then on the same day, the Scotsman Law Section manage to print the opposite of Mr Mill''s view of the end of the world, by suggesting the inevitable opening of the legal services markets will have to be adapted to ...

Perhaps the Law Society's leadership is stuck in the past ? Time for a change everyone ?

The Scotsman reports :

Prepare for the end of the closed shop by rebranding and merging - as we have


THE legal profession in Scotland is facing challenging times. The recent OFT recommendations and the imminent deregulation of the legal profession, creating a level playing field between Scotland and England, will firmly confine our current ways of working to the archives.

Tesco Law, Virgin Law, EasyLaw: you name it, we can expect it. Firms with impeccable consumer credentials will be all over our business before you can even say "so long, closed shop".

Gillespie Macandrew, like many others, welcomes this culture of openness and breakdown of barriers. We believe in competition and we're focused on serving consumers' interests. But we're not complacent, and we need to be ready.

That's why we've just invested £100,000 in a comprehensive facelift (or re-brand, as the marketing people like us to call it). We've also invested in a training programme for our people to face the new challenges.

After extensive research among staff, peers and existing and potential clients, we have developed a revitalised corporate identity that will allow us to not only weather the onslaught from new providers, but also accelerate our growth while continuing to deliver a professional holistic offering across our existing client-base.

As well as helping us stand out in a crowded market, our re-brand also reflects the firm's expansion and diversification. The new logo champions our three key practice areas: law, property and finance.

The research indicated our public profile has been on the low side and Gillespie Macandrew is viewed as a "traditional" law firm. In reality, the truth couldn't be further removed: hence the new identity.

Our business has changed dramatically as a result of five very different acquisitions over the past three years, which have retained our Scotland-wide services and increased our business exposure to the Edinburgh market. It was important for us that the new identity reflected our aggressive growth and communicated the personality of our business, notably that of Hunters, the recognised and trusted estate agency, which we acquired in 2006.

The rebrand positions the new-look Hunters Residential as a pivotal element of our business, with matching brand identity and design work.

Our ability to give mortgage advice is again a recent addition to the stable. In June we launched a new financial services division, which broadens our existing work into specialist mortgage and pensions consultancy while complementing the private client department's estate and tax planning, trust management and investment capabilities.

This was rapidly followed by the acquisition of Haig Scott, the three-partner Edinburgh law firm, which was the springboard for the launch of our specialist housebuilder property team.

This new deal signifies a burgeoning trend of consolidation in the market. With mounting compliance and regulatory issues, the pressures of running a small practice are becoming all-consuming, and increasingly small and medium firms are under commercial pressures to merge and focus on niche specialities. By joining a much larger entity, the red tape is no longer an issue for the partners who can get on with the day job.

The result is that Gillespie Macandrew now boasts 22 partners and more than 150 people specialising in a range of niche disciplines: from licensing to tax planning; intellectual property to residential property. This year our turnover is set to exceed £10 million for the first time. A giant step from the £3 million that we recorded back in 2003.

In these exciting but uncertain times, our new brand values of reliability, approachability, vibrancy and partnership are designed to fuel our next stage of growth. With Clementi in England and pressure to follow in Scotland, consolidation and consumer demand shaping our world, my rallying cry to the profession is to be clear what you stand for and develop a robust brand that allows you to beat the newcomers at their own game.

Gillespie Macandrew is ready to do business in an open shop.

• Ian Turnbull is the managing partner at Gillespie Macandrew

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