SOMEWHAT like the Brexiting United Kingdom, law firm Burness Paull is going to spend much of the next three years building relationships in key jurisdictions around the world.

Unlike the country, however, the firm appears to have a clear plan in place for achieving its goal, with chairman Philip Rodney noting that the firm has a very specific hit-list of countries to focus on.

“The US, Canada and Norway have been very strong for us and more recently it’s been Israel, China and India,” Mr Rodney said. “We’ve been out to India a couple of times this year, getting traction in relation to oil and gas.

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“There are lots of technology companies in Israel with overliquidity - they are looking for things to invest in.

“And by the next year of the rooster - 2029 - it is suggested that China will own a third of global assets. Whether that’s true or not the direction of travel is that there’s going to be a lot more investment from China so we’re not just selling us but selling Scotland as a place to invest.”

Though the firm is having to plough resources into building those relationships the investment appears to be paying off, with Burness Paull now seeing two fifths of its revenues come from transactions that involve one or more country outside the UK.

Much of this is down to the 2012 merger that created Burness Paull, with Central Belt firm Burness joining forces with Aberdeen’s Paull & Williamsons in a move that Mr Rodney said “had a significant impact” on the enlarged firm’s international reach.

“Forty per cent of the business now has an international dimension to it - since the merger that has probably doubled. To a great extent that’s due to oil and gas companies,” he said.

Despite helping to expand the firm’s reach into international markets, the Paull & Williamsons deal has not been without its problems.

Completed when the Aberdeen market was riding high on the then soaring oil price, the merger has recently proved a drag on Burness Paull’s performance, with exposure to the battered oil industry seeing the firm’s turnover, which initially soared post-merger, nudge up by just four per cent in the 2015/16 financial year.

Though the firm is still finalising its figures for the year to the end of July, early indications are that they will be flat, something Mr Rodney said the firm “considers to be satisfactory” given the backdrop.

Then there is the unwelcome attention the deal brought the enlarged firm by way of a professional negligence case, with a former client of the legacy Paull & Williamsons business suing Burness Paull for $210 million.

The firm will face Robert Kidd, the one-time boss of oil services company ITS Tubular Services, in the Court of Session next year, when he must prove that losses he sustained when the business went into administration were the direct result of actions taken by a now-former Paull & Williamsons partner.

Not that Mr Rodney has any regrets about going ahead with the merger.

“Not at all,” he stressed. “The Paull & Williamsons deal was transformational for us. It was one of the building blocks in the transformation we have made from being an excellent mid-market firm to a market-leading firm.”

As the Kidd case is currently live Mr Rodney cannot comment on it beyond saying it is “being vigorously defended”. When it comes to Aberdeen, though, he is far more vocal, noting that while the city may be down it is far from out following the oil-price slump.

“Aberdeen as a city is interesting,” he explained. “I read an article that said normal will be the new normal in Aberdeen - it will move from being a city with peaks and troughs to a normal city with normal levels of unemployment and normal hotel prices.

“It will still prosper and a lot of the oil and gas activity will be more integrated with energy more generally. Aberdeen will go through that process of reinvention.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that one of the main strands of the firm’s new three-year strategy is to focus on creating what Mr Rodney called “a more integrated energy offering” that “pulls together the expertise we have in oil and gas” and builds on it in various sub-sectors.

Technology, another area of strategic focus for the firm, will be key to this.

“We brought in [head of technology] Callum Sinclair from DLA Piper last year and when he joined the firm our view was that technology was a sector that we would focus on but he opened our eyes to the fact that there’s not really a technology sector - every business is a technology business, it pervades everything,” Mr Rodney said. “Technology across sectors is a big growth area.”

Away from the business lines, another priority for the next three years will be to put a leadership succession plan in place, with both Mr Rodney and managing partner Ian Wattie due to retire when their current terms come to an end.

Stepping into Mr Rodney’s place could pose a challenge for his eventual successor given that his name has become synonymous with the firm during his 12-year chairmanship - particularly in the lucrative London market where the firm generates much of its business via Rodney-negotiated referrals from City firms.

Stressing that he “does not believe in legacy”, though, Mr Rodney said “there are a few people” being earmarked to potentially step up, any one of whom he believes will make a success of succession.

“Former Easyjet CEO Andy Harrison once said - and I really believe this - you do your job to the best of your ability and then someone else does the job to the best of their ability,” Mr Rodney said. “Until I walk out the door I will use all my energy to make this firm a success - and then my successor will use all theirs.”