ANDERSON Strathern is looking to increase the scope of the international work it does after being signed up as the Scottish member of the Meritas law-firm network.

As part of the network the firm will have access to over 7,000 lawyers at 183 firms in 92 counties, giving it a clear referral route when it is instructed on matters with an international element.

“Over the past five years or so it has been clear to us that we need to be able to deal with the international dimension,” Anderson Strathern chairman Bruce Farquhar said. “We already have clients in India and the US and this was a nice way of building on that.”

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For independent law firms like Anderson Strathern, signing up to such an organisation is seen as an alternative to having to choose between being subsumed into a global law firm and not being able to offer joined-up international advice to clients.

Shepherd & Wedderburn, for example, is a member of Texas-based multi-disciplinary network World Services Group, which in addition to law firms counts accountancy practices and financial services firms among its members. Similarly, Maclay Murray & Spens was a member of Lex Mundi until it was taken over by international firm Dentons in 2017, at which point Burness Paull succeeded it as the Scottish representative on that particular network.

“While we are an independent Scottish law firm we recognise the value of international business and expanding our reach outwith Europe was very much part of our growth strategy,” Mr Farquhar said.

“We want to give our clients comfort that when they’re moving across the world we have access to suitably qualified lawyers in every jurisdiction, but we are just as interested in the in-bound instructions the network will give us.

“We’ve been putting things out already – we’ve reached out to firms in Turkey, France and the Middle East – and we’ve had queries come in primarily from Europe.”

For the Scottish firms that have chosen to merge with a larger outfit, part of the appeal has been to be able to offer junior lawyers the opportunity to spend time gaining experiences in overseas offices. Mr Farquhar said being part of Meritas will afford Anderson Strathern’s lawyers that opportunity too.

“The network is being used to promote secondments between international firms and we see that as a really important opportunity for our young lawyers,” he said.

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The fact the network’s member firms all operate independently in their home jurisdictions was another key consideration for the firm.

“We went through a pretty strenuous due diligence process to get accepted for membership and, having been accepted as a member there are ongoing assessments to ensure it’s a robust network of firms of a suitable type – that’s reassuring to us,” Mr Farquhar said.

“These are firms that have specific quality controls in place but also firms that have the same ethos to us – they have a desire to remain independent.

“It’s great to be part of a network that shares the same underlying strategy as you have.”

Joining Meritas is the latest in a series of moves Anderson Strathern has taken in recent years in a bid to differentiate itself from competitors in the Scottish market.

In 2017 it launched no-win, no-fee claims management business Alba Claims, with the aim of creating a flow of disputes work to the firm. Though it is a standalone business it is wholly owned by the law firm, whose partners take on the risk of funding the disputes and recoup that money as and when an award of damages is made.

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It has also taken steps to expand its longstanding wealth management arm Anderson Strathern Asset Management (ASAM) after taking on former Aberdeen Asset Management global distribution head John Brett as its chief executive in 2016.

While the law firm channels clients to ASAM, the wealth business also has a standalone client list and, as with Alba Claims, this generates work for the firm.

Though the firm has also looked into the possibility of expanding north into Dundee or Aberdeen, it has so far remained rooted in the Central Belt, where it has offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Haddington.