PROFITS at law firm Burness Paull have more than tripled in the past 10 years while the amount of money awarded to the highest-earning partner at the firm has almost doubled over the same period.

A decade ago – financial year 2008/09 - legacy firm Burness made a profit of £6.8 million on turnover of £19.6m while the firm’s highest-earning partner received a profit share of £360,000 and the average partner took home £155,000.

In the year to July 2018 Burness Paull, which was created via the December 2012 merger of Burness with Aberdeen firm Paull & Williamsons, turned over £57.6m and made a profit of £23.8m. Accounts lodged at Companies House this week show that the firm’s highest-earning partner received a profit share of £634,000 while the average partner got £366,000.

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Burness Paull managing partner Tamar Tammes noted that the combination of the two firms had been transformational for both, adding that it was “a merger made in heaven”.

“There’s no doubt that had the legacy firms not merged different things would have happened,” she said.

Prior to the tie-up between Burness and Paull & Williamsons, the former’s partners were higher earners than the latter’s.

In 2010/11 the average Burness partner received a profit share of £300,000 while its top earner received £523,000. In the same year, the average Paull & Williamsons partner received £225,000 and its top earner received £356,000.

In 2013/14 – the first full year after the merger completed – the average partner at the enlarged firm received a profit share of £368,000 and the top earner took home £679,000.

Though the firm’s turnover and profit figures have grown by 24% and 15% respectively since then, individual profit shares have contracted in part because there is now a larger group of partners – 65 compared to 56 in 2013/14 – for the money to be shared between.

Though she noted that “it is not all about the money”, Ms Tammes said that it is important for firms to be able to show growth in profitability in order to attract new recruits.

“You only succeed and fly and become a really great place to work if you can attract the absolute premium people in as partners, or at any level who will become partners – it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she said.

“If they think it would be a great place to work but they’d get paid much more elsewhere then they’ve got that choice to make.

“If we can make it a fantastic place to work and they get good money then so much the better.”

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It is not just the firm’s partners that have seen their incomes increase over the past 10 years, with the average salary paid to employees increasing by 33% between 2008/09 and 2017/18, roughly in line with inflation.

The firm’s accounts show that a decade ago Burness’s 202 staff members were paid an average of just under £31,000 while last year Burness Paull’s 432 staff received an average salary of just over £41,000.

The firm also uses bonuses to reward employees, with all non-partner staff being given a pay-out equal to 5% of salary for the 2017/18 financial year as well as the opportunity to earn an additional 10% based on their own individual performance.

When the firm’s financial year closed at the end of July chairman Peter Lawson said the bonuses were being paid because the firm had met all its financial targets, with the results for the year being “bang in line with our growth plan”.

He said that much of the growth was down to the firm being the beneficiary of foreign investment into Scotland on the back of a weak pound, with its membership of the Lex Mundi referral network also proving beneficial.

Burness Paull was appointed as the Scottish member of international professional services network Lex Mundi last year after Maclay Murray and Spens, which had been part of the network since 2001, was taken over by global firm Dentons.

A resurgence in the oil price has also helped the firm in recent years, with the Paull & Williamsons deal giving the enlarged business a significant presence in the Aberdeen market.

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While the firm had warned in its 2017/18 accounts that the current financial year was likely to be “more challenging as the economy deals with Brexit”, Ms Tammes said that with the UK’s departure from the EU being pushed back early indications are that the firm will continue on its growth trajectory.

“We’re over half-way through our year; traditionally we always have a stronger second half than first half, that’s the way things work,” she said.

“We had a reassuringly busy March - it was really, really bouncy.”