Scottish legal survey 2016, by BDO

Martin Gill, partner and head of BDO LLP Scotland, has authored a report from a survey of Scottish independent law firms.

The report, downloadable, outlines the current confidence in the sector as well as summarising some of the steps taken by these firms to remain robust in a climate of uncertainty.

Gill, quoted in the Scotsman and in a BDO press release about the report, states Scots law firms are optimistic about the coming year. This is despite the fact all the law firms acknowledge the marketplace in Scotland for legal services continues to be extremely competitive.

Gill puts the confidence down to law firms’ improved financial management and strategy developments to continue to be profitable in such a saturated area of business. Gill found the survey highlights significant financial reconstructions in Scots law firms occurring, with an awareness for putting in place much more quantifiable performance measures, encouraging realistic expectations.

Scots law firms, Gill states, have been forced to revaluate and put their houses in order with a “greater eye on the bottom line than might have occurred in the past“.

The report also offers caution with 37% of law firms surveyed believing some firms will become insolvent in 2016.

In an interview on BBC Radio Scotland this morning, Martin Gill was  asked: having seen Scots independent law firms merge with UK firms and others suffer insolvency in recent years, and with an expectation of more to follow this year – are there too many lawyers in Scotland?

Gill replied that this is always a common held belief and although the answer is probably yes, firms are announcing both projected profits and increased numbers of employees for the coming year. The firms which sadly become insolvent have still not likely adjusted their business models enough after being made susceptible to market changes from 2008/9.

This report, Gill went on, sees law firms taking tactical decisions when assessing  opportunities to challenges: sometimes this will be mergers, sometimes by becoming more efficient businesses on their own. It suggests overall that while Scots law firms may continue to reduce in the next year or so, lawyer numbers in Scotland will likely continue to be largely unaffected as the work continues to come in from clients.

The PDF of the report can be found below:


Lord Gill’s Valedictory Addresses, 26 May 2015

Your faithful SLLG correspondent was fortunate to be in attendance at the Scottish Legal Profession’s official send-off to the retiring Lord President, the Rt. Hon. Lord Gill, held in Court 1 of the Court of Session this week.

A large attendance representing almost certainly every facet of the administration of law in Scotland listened to speeches in celebration of Lord Gill’s legal career. An extensive career, Lord Carloway stated as one of both record and “legend”.

Lord Gill sat in the middle of a full Bench, flanking him in all their red robed and white wigged finery. The Office Bearers of the Faculty of Advocates sat opposite in full battle dress in the front row of the court, the Faculty Treasure’s ceremonial purse and Dean’s staff of office symbolically at their sides. Behind them were the presidents and officers of law societies. The court clerks stood attentive to their roles but unobtrusively so, in the periphery. Advocates, solicitors, trainees, school children and all and sundry fitted into the public gallery.

There was, then, an unmistakable air of solemnity about the occasion. The speeches offered nothing in the way of the ‘elbow-jab-to-the-ribs’ joviality expected at many office retirement parties; however, measured, they came across as genuine and heartfelt. It made you wonder if this is the same practiced tone used toward the accused when it gets to the brass tacks of the sentencing bit.

Lord Carloway lamented the imminent loss of Lord Gill’s clarity of vision, inclusivity and compassion within the legal fraternity but stated his belief that the court reforms Lord Gill created and has overseen will stand as a working monument of his character for decades to come.

Your correspondent was equally lucky to witness Lord Gill’s installation to the position Lord President in what seems like no time ago. And indeed, relatively in Lord Gill’s career, it is the case.

Lord Gill was admitted into the Faculty of Advocates in 1967 and leaves Parliament House from the senior position of Lord President, which he has held since 2012. Between these two markers, Lord Gill was Keeper of the Advocates Library from 1987 to 1994; something which was well noted in the speech presented by the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates.

Mr. Wolffe, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, offered up the examples of three books, taken directly from the Advocates Library shelves that very morning, as pillars of Lord Gill’s contribution to Scots Law.

First was Grotius’ De jure belli ac pacis libri tres (published 1642). A volume Lord Gill himself authorised the Advocates Library to purchase in 1991, while Keeper. Second, the Dean held up Lord Gill’s own work, The Law of Agricultural Holdings in Scotland (now entering its 4th edition). Third, the Dean admitted inevitably, was Lord Gill’s report reviewing the administration of the civil court.

Finally, the Dean laid out one more item held by the Advocates Library: Lord Gill’s handwritten musical score of Populus Sion, an anthem he composed and which was performed in St Peter’s Basilica in 2006 under his direction. With this, the Dean closed, he hoped to represent Lord Gill’s continued passion outside the law’s hold for him.

The President of the Law Society of Scotland praised Lord Gill’s judgement, Glasgow-born wit and pragmatism in the role of Lord President.

Lord Gill replied to these speeches with his own retiring speech, in his own easy low-key, and yes, retiring delivery. Reflective, he thanked those who worked with him during his years in Parliament House, taking purposeful time to highlight and thank the staff, on which the Scottish legal system relies, for their professionalism and commitment – sometimes to their personal sacrifice – to aid the lawyers, Advocates and Judges. Fortunate to be able to say he did a job in a profession he always found stimulating and still loves, and leaving with happy memories, Lord Gill finally wished everyone well and adjourned the court.

Although the Court of Session is well open to criticism for being a rather starched environment, there was something still to be admired about this ceremony. The traditional formality, the eulogising and the politeness seemed fitting for such an occasion. While Lord Gill leaves a raft of modern innovations which will affect those in Scotland who have dealings with the process of law for many years to come, it was appropriate in this brief moment to see those involved in highest processes of it maintain a sobriety in upholding a respect of the system they work in for the wider society.

Lord Gill retires on 31st May. To learn more about the Senators of the College of Justice, you might like to visit the Scottish Judicial website’s information page about their work.