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Law firms seeing growing demand for advice on independence referendum

SCOTLAND'S largest commercial law firms are seeing increasing demands for information from clients keen to understand the potential implications of the independence referendum.

Firms are anticipating the desire for knowledge about possible scenarios resulting from the vote will increase as 2014 progresses.

Many have set up formal and informal teams within their operations to advise on specific areas including regulation and trade.

Places on seminars and events organised by the firms and relating to the referendum are said to have been snapped up within days of them being offered.

Craig Turnbull, managing partner at MacRoberts, said his firm has held events attended by Nicola Sturgeon and Alasdair Darling with John Swinney pencilled in for the next one.

He said: "A lot of our clients are interested in the independence referendum because this is the biggest decision the people of Scotland have had to make for 300 years.

"A constitutional change could have big consequences for our clients' operations.

The most common observation we hear is that they want to have better quality information about what constitutional change would mean for the Scottish economy."

Bill Drummond, managing partner at Brodies, said the firm has been analysing potential issues in constitutional, regulation and trade law.

Mr Drummond said he is also speaking to many people in his role as chairman at the Scottish Council for Development and Industry.

He said: We have already guided many clients on the issues they consider relevant to them - that's what we're here for.

"In my own work with SCDI we have sought to identify key questions for both camps that SCDI members want reassurance on and many of my partners and other colleagues are making similar contributions in their engagement with industry and policy-makers.

"I'm glad to be able to say that the activity levels I've mentioned indicate that clients are getting on with things - and so we are too. It all makes for an interesting year ahead."

Kirk Murdoch, chairman of Pinsent Masons in Scotland and Northern Ireland, said public policy director Alastair Ross has seen a "marked" increase in the work being done by his team.

Mr Murdoch said: "It is hugely valuable to have this expert insight into the independence debate, both for briefing our lawyers as they go about their daily business with clients, but also to take on client inquiries as to the likely impact on their business should there be a Yes vote in September."

Chris Smylie, from Maclay Murray & Spens, Philip Rodney from Burness Paull, Morton Fraser's Chris Harte and Stephen Gibb from Shepherd & Wedderburn all said they had also seen more interest from clients.

Mr Gibb added: "The lack of certainty is driving the demand for advice, and this will increase as more detail of policies are published."

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