SCOTTISH law firms Thorntons, Murray Donald and Steel Eldridge Stewart are to merge later this year, creating one of the biggest independent practices in the east of the country.

The merged firm will trade under the Thorntons banner and have 40 partners and 400 staff across locations in Angus, Tayside, Fife and Edinburgh.

Jack Robertson, chairman of Thorntons, believes the three firms will be much stronger together.

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Steel Eldridge Stewart will merge with Thorntons on September 1 with Murray Donald following later in 2014.