AN EMPLOYMENT advisory business that spun out of law firm Maclay Murray & Spens in 2012 has moved into the Aberdeen market with the acquisition of local firm Empire.

Law at Work, a consultancy that provides advice on employment law as well as HR and health and safety matters, has joined forces with its Aberdeen counterpart to create a £5.5 million firm. Debt funding for the deal was provided by HSBC.

Law at Work chairman Magnus Swanson said that while the Aberdeen market was of interest to the firm, the deal was driven more by Empire’s standing in the market than a desire to break into the north-east specifically.

“Empire is a very good fit with us as it has significant parallel competencies in the same service lines,” Mr Swanson said.

“It’s also got some rather good added services around quality assurance, which we never did. We liked the look of that.

“It’s very complementary and hopefully our clients will like that.”

Read more: Law at Work bulks up with addition of Square Circle

Mr Swanson added that being able to add Aberdeen to Law at Work's bases in Glasgow and Edinburgh was also attractive because “Aberdeen is an excellent hub point for Scottish business”.

“Aberdeen has its own dynamic and we have a great foothold there with Empire,” he said.

Empire, which will contribute around £2.5m of the combined firm’s turnover, was launched in 2005 by chief executive Steve Cook and managing director Peter-Jon Chalmers.

Both Mr Cook and Mr Chalmers have joined the board at Law at Work and have been given a shareholding in the business.

Read more: Turnover rises at specialist HR legal business Law at Work

Mr Cook said that his firm had known Law at Work “well for many years”, adding that the two firms shared the same objective to “take legal and compliance worries away” for clients.

“We are both already best in class but, through a combined offering, are now better placed than ever to set the standard others can only aspire to,” he added.

The deal comes after Law at Work acquired Glasgow-based HR consultancy Square Circle in 2016.

Mr Swanson said the plan is to grow the firm further, both organically and through acquisition, although he added that it would not be expanding its footprint in Scotland.

“[The Empire deal] makes us complete as far as Scotland is concerned,” Mr Swanson said.

“We’ve always had a bunch of clients in the south because the laws are not different north and south of the border.

“We’ll maybe focus on integration for the next year but beyond that we will look to the south.”

Mr Swanson said that while he likes the idea of “getting some traction” by taking over an established firm, it is possible that Law at Work would launch its own base “if we had enough clients clustered who would find that helpful”.

The intention, he added, would be to have a presence “somewhere in the south-east corner or M25 corridor” rather than in London itself.

Law at Work spun out of Maclay Murray & Spens in 2012 in a management buy-out led by Mr Swanson, who had previously been chief executive of the law firm.

Mr Swanson said that Law at Work was winning a growing number of clients from traditional legal practices because “they are able to analyse the marketplace”.

“Businesses like Law at Work are very open about costs and are predictable – that appeals to certain clients,” he said.

“We focus only on employment law so it’s a combination of focus and predictability.”

Read more: Maclays has joined Dentons - can it become a world leader?

Maclay Murray & Spens, which was once one of the so-called Big Four Scottish law firms, was taken over by global outfit Dentons last year.

It came after fellow Big Four firms McGrigors and Dundas & Wilson were taken over by Pinsent Masons and CMS respectively. Shepherd & Wedderburn remains an independent firm.