EDINBURGH law firm Morisons Solicitors is being divided up between acquisitive Dundee rivals Thorntons and Blackadders after being put into administration by insolvency practitioners at FRP Advisory.

It is understood that Morisons, which stopped publishing full accounts in 2017/18, had run into financial difficulty after taking on bank debt to finance its move from Edinburgh’s Queen Street to Exchange Square in 2015.

Having been placed into pre-packaged administration this afternoon, the firm has been split between Thorntons and Blackadders, with the former taking its Edinburgh office while the latter has taken its Glasgow base.

Edinburgh is by far Morisons’ largest office, with 8 of its 11 partners based there. While all the firm’s partners and employees are moving across to either Thorntons or Blackadders, both firms are expected to launch a redundancy process once the deals complete.

Morisons is the latest in a line of Scottish legal businesses to call in the administrators, with Tods Murray, McClure Naismith, Semple Fraser and Pagan Osborne among the names that have already disappeared from the market.

This is the second time Thorntons has stepped in to rescue the business of a failed rival, with the firm also buying Pagan Osborne out of pre-packaged administration towards the end of 2017.

That deal saw 10 of Pagan Osborne’s 11 partners transfer to Thorntons along with 113 staff, although around 60 staff members were ultimately made redundant as part of a process that saw Pagan Osborne’s offices in Edinburgh, Cupar and St Andrews close down.

The acquisition had nevertheless been a significant one for Thorntons, which until that time had bulked up its business via a number of small-scale bolt-ons in the east of the country.

That strategy began in September 2014, when Thorntons acquired Cupar’s Steel Eldridge Stewart, following that up with the acquisition of St Andrews-based Murray Donald in November of that year, Montrose firm Watts in 2015 and Kirkcaldy’s Clarkson Hamilton in June 2016.

When announcing the firm’s results for the 2017/18 financial year, Thorntons managing partner Craig Nicol said the Pagan Osborne deal was “certainly a significant acquisition” which helped push Thorntons’ turnover up by 13 per cent to £27 million and partner profits by 14% to £5.8m.

Blackadders, which like Thorntons is headquartered in Dundee, has similarly been expanding its footprint in recent years, with the firm first gaining a Glasgow foothold via the acquisition of Boyle Shaughnessy in 2016.

Other deals completed by Blackadders include the 2012 buyout of Edinburgh outfit McKay Norwell and 2014 acquisitions of Aberdeen-based Adam Cochran and Perth-based Condies.

Blackadders managing partner Johnston Clark said two years ago that the firm’s aim was to “get bigger because of the benefits from economies but also to develop more practice lines”.

Earlier this year the firm consolidated its presence in the north east with the take-over of Aberdeen business Plenderleath Runcie.

That firm’s founders John Plenderleath and Colin Runcie joined Blackadders as partners along with colleague Neil Robb, while fellow partner John McLoone moved on to Aberdeen firm Grant Smith Law Practice.

Mr Clark said at the time that the Plenderleath Runcie deal “reinforced our position for continued, strategic growth”.