IT was his love of a good argument that drew Murray McCall into the legal profession.

“I’ve never been a shrinking violet,” says the managing partner of Edinburgh-based law firm Anderson Strathern. “I just like to talk and I like to meet people and I normally have strong views on issues. At school and university I enjoyed debating and would get involved in arguing for various issues. I’ve reined it in a bit now, but I was always quite happy to have a lively discussion with people.”

The son of a bank clerk and gas engineer (who also played a couple of seasons with Ayr United), Kilmarnock-born McCall, 45, initially toyed with the idea of being a vet, but realised he hated blood.

“I couldn’t quite get over that idea of having to kill or put down an animal.”

When a family friend suggested he might be good as a lawyer, the seed was planted and he became fascinated with TV legal dramas of the day.

“I would watch programmes to do with lawyers. Back in the old days it was things like Crown Court, Petrocelli and LA Law for a bit of glamour. I wasn’t very taken with the Crown Court approach, but I was very keen on LA Law. I think that was the one that nailed it for me.”

The first in his family to go to university, Mr McCall studied law at Glasgow University and got a first. Visiting the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg was a key highlight.

“We were the first guys at Glasgow University to do that as part of our honours course,” he explains. “We participated in a debate at the court on legal issues. We got to stand there and be judged by members of the European Court, and that was an innovative way of being involved in human rights law before it was a major issue in the UK.”

Mr McCall qualified as a solicitor in 1996 at Maxwell Waddell solicitors in Glasgow and stayed for another three years before a brief spell at Wright Johnston & Mackenzie and two years at MacRoberts, where he became a senior associate. In 2003 he joined McGrigor Donald – one of Scotland’s biggest law firms at the time – as a senior associate. Three years later he got the opportunity to join Anderson Strathern as a partner and help set up the firm’s Glasgow office.

“I was senior associate at McGrigor Donald and was very happy there, but I was quite keen to do a number of things,” he says. “I was given the opportunity to establish the Glasgow office of Anderson Strathern, which up to that point was really just focused on Edinburgh. I thought that sounded like an interesting challenge. We started off with a couple of colleagues who came over from the Edinburgh office and just built it up from there, mostly doing employment law, which was booming at the time. That was just over ten years ago and we now have almost 60 people in the office.”

Another career highlight was helping to save the Ineos chemicals plant in Grangemouth from the threat of permanent closure when the Unite union staged a high-profile strike in 2013 over new terms and conditions.

“There was a lot of publicity at the time and it was fairly high stakes,” explains Mr McCall, who was lead Scottish adviser to Ineos on employment law issues. “It was effectively a stand-off between management and unions over the survival of the plant and I was supporting the management. The plant was saved, the investment was put in and it’s now moving forward very positively.”

Anderson Strathern’s other clients include the Scottish Government, Scottish Prison Service, Transport Scotland, Scotmid, Apex Hotels and Scottish Water. The Duke of Buccleuch, the UK’s largest private landowner, has also been a client since the firm’s roots in the 1750s.

When Anderson Strathern’s former managing partner stepped down in 2014, Mr McCall threw his hat in the ring.

“They are contested elections for these roles,” he says. “You set out your manifesto; you are subjected to questioning; the partners vote – and they voted for me. I was very pleased. I would’ve been 42 to 43 when that happened, which is a bit young at some firms to go for the role. But if I didn’t get it, I would’ve just continued working in Glasgow and servicing our clients. So I didn’t feel I had a lot to lose.”

This March, Mr McCall made his ambition crystal clear when he announced two mergers and said Anderson Strathern was on course to becoming one of Scotland’s top three law firms in the next few years.

The mergers – with Glasgow-based solicitors Jeffrey Aitken and Edinburgh-based dispute resolution specialist ADLP Solicitors – mean the firm now has 270 staff, including 55 partners, and turnover of more than £22 million.

“There’s still a great opportunity for the likes of my firm to be seeing what small and medium law firms we can bring into the fold,” Mr McCall says. We want to be the firm that people want to work for, that clients want to work with. And we want to bring in small firms who are maybe struggling with succession planning, struggling to recruit people, to grow a bigger presence or to attract or retain clients. That’s an opportunity I see in the market at the moment.”