The impending vote for Scotland has a lot of people, from Prime Minister David Cameron down, nervous should the country decide to upend the 300 year old union. And law firms are among those nervous about a vote for independence.
Already a number of banks and other businesses have announced changes and a slowing in commercial activity, or have made investment decisions that have not involved a high exposure to Scotland. The effect of a vote in favour of independence would not necessarily have a huge effect upon the legal sector, but it has come at a bad times as Scottish law firms have just begun emerging from a slowdown in activities following the GFC.
The Lawyer reports that for some firms, like the former Dundas & Wilson or McGrigors, taking shelter in bigger organisations has been a means of weathering such storms.
Now respectively part of CMS and Pinsent Masons, the former Scottish leaders claim to have generated Scottish fees of £60m in the last financial year, helped in part by doing work originated elsewhere.
Lawyers Burness Paul has long seen 20 per cent of its revenue come from City referrals, is ramping up its focus on work containing an international element, with chairman Philip Rodney saying it wants to move from being “the strongest firm in Scotland to being the strongest firm operating from Scotland”.
The Lawyer also reports that another leading Scottish law firm has shifted cash out of Scottish banks for fear that a “Yes” vote would see a run on the banks.
MacRoberts chairman John Macmillan said that things may not become any more certain following the 18 September vote.
“The SNP think they can deliver a new structure in 500 days, but that is very optimistic,” he said.
“If it’s a Yes it’s difficult to see that the new country will be up and running properly by 2017/18 and that’s a long time for uncertainty to continue. Yes doesn’t tell you anything.
“A No is more likely, but it will have to lead to more devolution because all the other parties have said they’ll bring that in and it will be political suicide if they don’t. No one knows what that will look like and I don’t think that on the 19th of September it will become a lot more certain.”