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Profits jump as law firm mulls expansion

SHEPHERD and Wedderburn has posted a 10 per cent increase in annual profits with chief executive Stephen Gibb suggesting trading has remained strong in the new financial year and the law firm is mulling acquisitions.

GOOD YEAR: Shepherd and Wedderburn chief executive Stephen Gibb is delighted with a 10 per cent rise in profits.
GOOD YEAR: Shepherd and Wedderburn chief executive Stephen Gibb is delighted with a 10 per cent rise in profits.

Fee income was said to have grown ahead of forecast which led revenue in the 12 months to April 30, 2014, to rise seven per cent from £35.9 million to £38.3 million.

Net profit grew from around £13 million to £14.3 million with profit per equity partner expected to rise from £253,000 to £278,000 once the accounts are fully audited.

Mr Gibb hailed a "great" set of results and said the firm continues to have no debt and a strong balance sheet.

The biggest contributor to the revenue was the energy and natural resources practice which generated £9.9 million, a rise of 22 per cent on the previous year.

Clients in that sector include the likes of Scottish based oil explorers Cairn Energy and Bowleven while the firm is also working on a number of offshore wind projects.

Mr Gibb said: "It has just been a really good year in that area.[Offshore wind] is keeping a number of people very busy and we have had some significant activity in oil and gas as well which is good news."

The real estate practice outperformed expectations with a 21 per rise in revenue to £7.3 million.

London based partners Jonathan Rickard and Sally Morris-Smith joined during the year and according to Mr Gibb had "hit the ground running".

He said: "They have done some really good things in the English market. In Scotland we have seen some significant activity from larger clients and there is some development work starting again. The housebuilding teams we have, have also been busy."

Financial sector revenue grew by 23 per cent to £5.3 million which Mr Gibb attributed to a greater number of deals, better access to finance and the large number of initial public offerings on the London Stock Exchange.

He said: "There is more confidence in the market than there has been for some time. We see opportunity there as things get moving again."

Private client, media, technology and telecoms and food and drink were all said to have performed solidly with the competition and regulation practices also attracting steady streams of business.

The constitutional reform group in Edinburgh has also seen growing demand for advice as the independence referendum gets close.

The last quarter of the financial was said to have been particularly strong and that momentum carried through into the new trading period.

Mr Gibb said: "We beat our budget number for May. When you start the [financial] year your clock is reset so it is nice to have that in the first month."

As part of the firm's growth plans Mr Gibb confirmed Shepherd and Wedderburn, which has offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and London, is considering making acquisitions in the legal and financial planning sectors.

He said: "It is all about quality and adding value. We are not going to go gobbling up everyone but where we see the right fit and quality for our clients, and in the sectors we are going for, then it is of interest for us."

Along with that the firm continues to look at lateral hires of individuals or teams from rival firms.

Mr Gibb said: "We have a solid platform from which to grow the business in the coming year. We are seeing an ability to attract good people as a result of our financial position and results.

"We see people are looking about more now than perhaps they would have been a few years ago."

Mr Gibb said there would be investment in training programmes for staff in relation to winning business and client care in the coming year. Further spending on IT infrastructure and technology is also pencilled in.

The firm's clients include the likes of Sainsbury's John Lewis, Clydesdale Bank, Chivas Brothers, Aegon, Aberdeen Asset Management, British Land and Alliance Trust.

It employs 63 partners, 162 additional legal staff and 144 support staff across its offices.

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