THE chief executive of Shepherd and Wedderburn has admitted disappointment at a broadly flat financial performance at the law firm.

Stephen Gibb said things had been going well for the first nine months of the financial year before a slowing of certain business areas.

That resulted in a 1.9% dip in turnover from £36.57m to £35.86m in the 12 months to April 30, 2013.

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However the firm's total profit before tax, member remuneration and profit sharing was up 1.3% from £12.92m to £13.09m

After partner remuneration and tax the profit available for distribution among members came in at £6.16m, against £6.78m the previous year.

Mr Gibb said: "I was slightly disappointed with the final revenue figure because we'd been going very strongly for the first nine months of the year and then in February to April, the market lagged a bit, especially in corporate deals."

Annual accounts filed at Companies House outline that the firm had some benefit from the acquisition of independent financial advisory business Muirfield in September 2012.

That deal, designed to expand the private client practice, was said to have added around £34,000 to operating profits along with £140,000 in turnover.

The accounts show operating expenses in the year went down from £23.65m to £22.8m.

Average partner numbers increased from 55 to 59 with legal advisers dropping by one to 165. There was a reduction in administration and support staff from 156 to 145.

Employee costs fell from almost £13.3m to around £13m.

The firm's net cash position remains strong with a £55,000 increase in the year bringing the total sum close to £3.5m.

Mr Gibb said: "We've been doing quite a lot of investing over the last while, including hiring ten new partners.

"We are growing in particular the areas that we're known for such as energy, property and financial services.

"Our financial position is very healthy and in a tough market, showing a stable set of results with no net debt, cash in the bank and strong reserves is a great place to be, and a great platform from which to continue to build."

The profit allocation to the partner with the largest entitlement was noted in the accounts at £362,000, down from £541,000 for 2012.

The current number of partners is 61 and Mr Gibb expressed satisfaction at how the firm is trading.

He said: "We've had a solid performance to date in the current financial year. Areas showing particularly strong performance include ­property and infrastructure and dispute resolution."

Shepherd and Wedderburn, which has offices in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and London, was one of the traditional big four law firms in Scotland alongside McGrigors, Dundas & Wilson and Maclay Murray & Spens.

But McGrigors has now merged with Pinsent Masons with Dundas & Wilson expected to formally complete its merger with CMS Cameron McKenna in May this year. Meanwhile Brodies and Burness Paull have added to the competition in the sector by moving into the higher echelons of the legal league table in Scotland.

Mr Gibb has previously stated Shepherd and Wedderburn, founded in 1922, had no need to pursue merger deals.