A SET of strong results and bullish words on possible acquisitions suggest Shepherd and Wedderburn can retain its place at the top table of independent Scottish law firms.

Two of its traditional big four rivals - Dundas & Wilson and McGrigors - have been taken up into much larger firms while the other, Maclay Murray & Spens, is also known to have explored mergers on more than one occasion. Alongside that Burness Paull, a product of an all-Scottish merger, and Brodies have disrupted and challenged what was once a comfortable quartet at the top of the Scottish legal sector.

So for Shepherd and Wedderburn to still be around in its current form and posting large increases in revenue and profit might be a tentative sign that the worst is over, certainly at the upper end of the market.

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The firm has been fortunate, or well managed depending on how you view these things, in that it carries no debt so has not been forced to pursue a merger.

At a time of growing internationalisation it feels a London base can still provide a lot of opportunity especially when supplemented by its operations in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. With chief executive Stephen Gibb signalling trading in the new financial year has continued to build on recent momentum it will be interesting to see whether other Scottish firms are also capitalising on the apparent strengthening on the economic recovery.

Further mergers in the sector appear inevitable but perhaps more firms will have a greater degree of choice on whether to stay independent.