TWO decades after it was created via the merger of the spun-out private client practices of Dundas & Wilson and Burness, Turcan Connell has appointed its first female managing partner.

Gillian Crandles, who joined the firm in 2001 and also serves as the head of its divorce and family law team, has replaced Ian Clark in the role, becoming only the second managing partner in the firm’s 22-year history.

Noting that she had been appointed to the management position in a “fairly informal process”, Ms Crandles said she is “relishing the challenge” of running the firm, adding that the task has been made easier thanks to the firm's partnership remaining a relatively small one.

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“We’re a smallish partnership in terms of numbers and we all know each other very well – we’re all pulling in the same direction,” she said.

Despite this, Ms Crandles’ appointment has come at a time of growth for the firm, which was founded by name partners Douglas Connell and Robert Turcan, both of whom have now retired from practice. Last month tax and succession lawyer Pete Murrin joined its Glasgow office from rival Lindsays, while this month tax specialist Graeme Gass and estates expert Alistair Rushworth were promoted internally. Both Mr Gass and Mr Rushworth have been at the firm since they were trainees.

While the new partner appointments mean Turcan Connell’s partnership is now 83 per cent male, Ms Crandles said she hopes the fact she has taken over as managing partner will help redress the balance by encouraging more of the female talent already working within the firm to aim for partnership too.

“We don’t have a lot of females at partner level but I’m hoping that will change and a lot of the talent coming into the firm is female,” she said. “You have to hope that you’re a good role model.”

Though she is one of just four women in Turcan Connell’s 24-strong partnership, in taking on the management role Ms Crandles has joined the growing band of women who hold senior management positions at Scotland’s leading law firms.

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In addition to Brodies and Burness Paull, which are both co-led by women in the shape of chairman Christine O’Neill and managing partner Tamar Tammes respectively, Balfour & Manson, Ledingham Chalmers and Morton Fraser all have female chairs - Elaine Motion, Jennifer Young and Maggie Moodie - while Helen Archibald joined Thorntons as its first chief operating officer in 2016.

While Ms Crandles believes having so many women in leadership roles will have a positive impact on the ambitions of younger females entering the profession, she noted that there will not be a significant shift at the most senior end until working practices change too.

“This is not so much a gender thing as a family thing,” she said. “It’s about who is looking after the children, whether you are male or female, and that’s something we need to get better at.”

Ms Crandles said that in a bid to encourage more women to remain at the firm beyond their junior years Turcan Connell has recently “greatly improved” its maternity policy. It also offers “a vast array of flexible-working patterns” that are designed to give both male and female staff a better work-life balance with the aim of ensuring all talent is retained.

“I’m very keen that we encourage a community of trust – if we trust our people then they can do their work sitting at a desk here or at their kitchen table,” she said. “So long as the work is being done it doesn’t bother me at all where it’s being done.”

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Having taken over from Mr Clark, who has returned to full-time practice, earlier this month, Ms Crandles will lead the firm for the next five years, working initially alongside current chairman Simon Mackintosh. She will also have the opportunity to extend her term for a further five years.

Looking ahead, she said one of her main priorities will be to focus on the firm’s people, “looking at different ways of rewarding our people, remunerating them and understanding that it’s not all about the bottom line”.

Technology will be another. “The thread that I see running through everything is IT; that facilitates everything,” she said. “We need to not be scared about that but to harness it to allow our people and our clients to get what they are looking for.”