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Commercial law firm MMS names Shand as chief executive

MACLAY Murray & Spens (MMS) has elected Kenneth Shand, partner and head of its corporate department, as its new chief executive.

Mr Shand will take the reins from Chris Smylie on June 1, the Glasgow-based commercial law firm has announced.

The appointment comes after Mr Smylie decided to step down at the end of his three-year term.

Mr Smylie, who will work with Mr Shand during the ­transition period, will resume his duties as a partner in the firm's planning team.

MMS chairman Robert Laing praised Mr Smylie for leading the firm through "a period of unprecedented turbulence".

Mr Smylie carried out a ­strategic review of MMS while chief executive, which has led it to place more focus on its London city office and serving clients operating on a global level.

Mr Laing said there are signs the move has paid off, stating: "The wisdom of that approach, in the face of many of our ­competitors advocating ­retrenchment to Scotland, is now becoming clear."

Mr Smylie's spell as chief ­executive has coincided with significant consolidation in the Scottish legal scene, with fee levels falling and competition for clients intensifying amid the tough economic conditions.

Notable deals have seen McGrigors merge with Pinsent Mason in 2012, and Dundas & Wilson join forces with CMS Cameron McKenna in December.

Mr Shand said he expects further consolidation will occur, "not necessarily because of problems or difficulties, but because of the opportunities that can come out of it".

He also refused to rule out MMS becoming involved in takeover plays.

Mr Shand said: "There are a variety of circumstances that lead to firms of different sizes coming together. We are open-minded about how we grow.

"We are primarily committed to growing our business in a steady way - that can come in various shapes and forms."

MMS signalled that its fortunes were improving by highlighting a "significant increase in deal flow" at its offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and London.

In December it reported it had concluded deals worth more than £2 billion in its last quarter, culminating in the advisory role it played in Aberdeen Asset Management's £650 million acquisition of Scottish Widows Investment Partnership (SWIP).

MMS also advised Gatehouse, the Shariah-compliant investment bank, in its £700m joint venture with Sigma to build 600 private homes for rent.

Mr Shand said the second half of 2013 had been "very encouraging" for the firm. He noted growing optimism among clients in terms of the economy, with "more and more talking about opportunities in the pipeline".

However he said the stance being taken at MMS was one of cautious optimism.

Mr Shand noted: "You have to be cautious. With everything we have been through over the last three, four, five years it would be folly to think it will all be sorted with the flick of a switch.

"Steady growth is good for the economy in general."

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