“The world is changing fast and law firms need to adapt to ensure their services are relevant to clients and, wherever possible, exceed their expectations,” says Andrew Blain, recently promoted to Managing Partner at Shepherd and Wedderburn.
“There are challenges in such a rapidly-evolving economic and political climate,” he adds, “but with those challenges come opportunities for law firms that actively listen to their clients, demonstrate shared ambition and provide informed, commercially-focused strategic counsel.”
Blain has been a member of Shepherd and Wedderburn’s Board since 2009 as Divisional Director of the Corporate Division, and will build on the firm’s significant progress and achievements on behalf of clients in recent years.
These include being a trusted adviser to a number of the UK’s best-known and most innovative organisations, across all sectors, advising Scotland’s first tech unicorn from incorporation to sale, and supporting clients on a variety of landmark clean energy developments, major infrastructure projects and asset and property transactions.
Blain succeeds Stephen Gibb, who was first elected in 2012 and led Shepherd and Wedderburn through the aftermath of the global financial crisis and on the acquisitions of Tods Murray in 2014 and The Commercial Law Practice in Aberdeen in 2016. Under Gibb’s stewardship, the firm grew from 360 people to almost 500 and reported record financial results on its 250th anniversary last year.
“Stephen has been a driving force across the business. I look forward to building on his considerable achievements and leading the firm as we go from strength to strength, supporting clients in Scotland, the rest of the UK and internationally,” said Blain.
“I will continue to act for a small number of the firm’s key clients. This reflects the importance I place in listening to our clients to understand their objectives and expectations of us, and maintaining those trusted adviser relationships, which are, and have always been, part of Shepherd and Wedderburn’s DNA. Our hallmark is establishing long-standing relationships of trust, rooted in legal advice and client service of the highest quality.”
In marking the firm’s 250th anniversary this year, there is a collective pride in its heritage; throughout its history Shepherd and Wedderburn has attracted lawyers who are independently regarded as leaders in their field and act as trusted advisers to some of the biggest names in business.
But the celebrations have also been resolutely forward-looking. Shepherd and Wedderburn has expanded significantly in recent years. The firm’s corporate clients range from FTSE to AIM-listed companies and large international groups to owner-managed small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), spin-outs and start-ups.
We have achieved many milestones with our clients over the past 250 years precisely because we have never been a business that rests on its laurels.
Under Blain’s leadership, Shepherd and Wedderburn’s corporate team has delivered impressive growth in recent years, acting on a number of landmark deals. Last year, the corporate team advised on 114 deals globally with a combined value of £8.65bn spanning the technology, energy, food and drink, corporate real estate, and health sectors.
Technology and fintech were also key areas of focus, with the firm acting for Scotland’s first ‘unicorn’, FanDuel, on its sale to PandaCo Inc, part of global bookmaker group Paddy Power Betfair; on the investment wrap platform Nucleus Financial Group’s £140m IPO; and for Qdos Holdings on the sale of the company’s entire issued share capital to Tokio Marine HCC, in one of the largest ‘insurtech’ disposals in the UK to date.
The corporate team also acted for Epic Games, developer of the online video game Fortnite, on its strategic acquisitions of Scottish technology companies Spatial Flow and Cloudgine, both co-founded by David Jones, co-creator of the Grand Theft Auto video game series. The firm was involved in another big international tech deal, acting as Scots counsel for NASDAQ-listed internet security software group Fortinet on its acquisition of cloud-based security platform ZoneFox, a spin-out from Edinburgh Napier University.
“Tech is an area of real potential for Scotland and the Scottish economy going forward,” says Blain. “There is a significant start-up community who work collaboratively, and we work hard to help these start-ups and fast-growing companies achieve scale, create jobs, deliver economic benefit and compete on the global stage.”
As part of the firm’s 250th anniversary, Shepherd and Wedderburn commissioned The Fraser of Allander Institute to produce a report, Scotland in 2050: Realising Our Global Potential, which canvassed the views of more than 100 business leaders, industry bodies and representatives of public and third sector organisations.
The Institute identified key trends, opportunities and risks that Scotland needs to respond to in order to compete in a rapidly evolving global economy. Crucially, the global nature of these issues will be important, irrespective of Brexit or other forms of constitutional change.
“Scotland, and supporting Scotland’s economy, is important to us,” said Blain. “At the same time, we look out from Scotland; our strategy is to be a market-leading independent law firm, headquartered in Scotland serving clients across the UK and internationally. We are currently supporting clients in 120 jurisdictions outside the UK.”
He added: “Our independence gives us the ability to be fleet-of-foot and to effect decisions faster than some of our competitors. Like all businesses, we are also continually striving to improve the delivery of our services through technology and smarter working. Underpinning all of this, of course, is recruiting, retaining and developing talent.
“Of course, law firms must deliver profitable growth, and we work hard at that, but our reputation is founded on our quality of service. It is vital that we always endeavour to enhance clients’ experience of using our firm. We have achieved many milestones with our clients over the past 250 years precisely because we have never been a business that rests on its laurels.”