The merger of two of the most prominent legal firms in the UK has boosted their global capability and services offerings as well as providing a career path for lawyers to gain international exposure.

Now, just over a decade later, Laura Cameron is to continue to help provide new opportunities as the first female head of the single firm, the oldest part of which dates to 1769.

Ms Cameron was elected to the top role at Pinsent Masons last year and will take up the post in May, when she takes on overall responsibility for a global staff complement of 3,300 across 27 locations, including 550 lawyers and support staff at its Scottish offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

Glasgow-based Ms Cameron is a McGrigors stalwart and was a proponent of the 2012 merger with historic London firm Pinsent Masons, which she says has brought benefits including greater cross-jurisdiction capability.

As well as bringing with it flexibility and strength, the larger business, which has ten new sites, now provides more from experts including forensic accounting services, tax professionals and policy advisers.

READ MORE: Pinsent Masons names Glasgow lawyer as first female chief

The new managing partner, who takes over from John Cleland, plans to focus on growing the business and maintaining routes of development for staff including the chance to work all over the world.

The firm said Ms Cameron has had “significant influence” in shaping the business and is an ambassador for gender parity in management positions.

Changing market

Ms Cameron, who is from Perth, started work with McGrigor Donald in 1994. She said: “I could see that the legal market was changing and we needed to grow and expand.

“Our clients were expecting that of us, and expecting us to be able to service their needs outside all jurisdictions in which we were operating.”

She was able to step up to become the first female board member at Pinsent Masons.

READ MORE: Pinsent Masons Scotland: 35.5% pay rise for entry-level lawyers at firm

“The merger has brought fantastic opportunities for our people to work in different jurisdictions,” said Ms Cameron. “I’ve been to every one of our offices whether it’s Melbourne right through to Aberdeen, and it has been a great privilege to be able to see litigation working in different jurisdictions.

“I’ve learned a huge amount but it is not just my level, if you like, we have the Stride programme where we advertise jobs every year more for junior people, up to about seven years post-qualification, in different jurisdictions, for an opportunity for people to go and do six months in Germany or in Australia or in Singapore.

"One of our construction lawyers in Glasgow took on a Stride placement, went to Hong Kong for six months and has now permanently relocated to Singapore.”


She continued: “We are Scottish qualified we are qualified to operate in the Scottish courts, a lot of the work we do on an international basis is international arbitration, where the rules are guided by the arbitration rules which are not guided by a particular jurisdiction.

“They can work in any jurisdiction, it doesn’t matter. Your client may be based in the Middle East but your project is in South Africa and the dispute in the seat of the jurisdiction in Paris."

READ MORE: Law firm grows revenues in Scotland

Ms Cameron added: "Again it is not for everyone, we have lawyers who want to focus on the Scottish courts which is great, we need that too.

“Part of my position during the election process last year was that I firmly believe for us to be globally strong we need to be locally strong in each and every office in which we operate, whether that is Melbourne or Glasgow.

“In Glasgow we are doing some fantastic work. We have just been involved in the big property sale of 177 Bothwell Street, the largest transaction last year. That is very local. So local it is next door to our office.

“But then they are also doing things like there are project lawyers working on renewables projects in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the US and Poland. We were in the Supreme Court with one of our Scottish partners who was doing a case that was of national interest in the UK.”

The firm's legal and services suite has also helped it respond as the country flatlines around recession.

"Quite often in a recessionary time litigation kicks up, it gets a lot busier, clients have to litigate, they can’t afford not to litigate or they want to just secure as much as they can from contracts that are no longer viable. So, litigation tends to take a bit of an uptick and a third of our business is litigation.

“We just need to make sure we can pivot towards these things, make sure that we are filling in gaps with perhaps some of the team members that are less busy.

"We have great examples of that. We’ve got a huge case, we can’t name our client, with 11 partners on this case, but they are located across the globe.

"We just needed litigators to pile into this.

"We’ve got guys in Australia working on it. Even though it was a UK case we are able to work 24/7 on it as time is of the essence."


What countries have you most enjoyed travelling to, for business or leisure, and why?

In my working life, I’ve been very fortunate to visit many countries across the globe and although it’s a struggle to pick a favourite, if pushed, I would say Singapore – great people, vibe, and food! On the leisure front, it has to be the Scottish Islands – nothing comes close to their spectacular beauty. There’s no place like home!

When you were a child, what was your ideal job? Why did it appeal?

When I was at primary school, I wanted to be a dentist because our dental practice recruited its first female dentist – up until that point, I had no idea a woman could be a dentist. I loved the idea of giving people the perfect smile. As I got older, though, I realised the reality of the job and I just don’t have the stomach for injections and blood!

What was your biggest break in business?

I’ve had a number of pivotal moments in my career but being elected to the board is probably the standout. It gave me a much broader perspective on the entirety of our business. When you’re part of a growing global organisation it’s important to have a clear understanding of the strategy, so being involved in shaping that via my board role meant I could really instill it in day-to-day work with my team.

What was your worst moment in business?

Undoubtedly dealing with the sadness and grief (my own and others) when close colleagues have passed away.

Who do you most admire and why?

My mum and dad. Sadly, they both passed away way too young, but they raised four children who not only loved them but each other dearly.

What book are you reading and what music are you listening to?

I’m currently reading Get happy: The life of Judy Garland by Gerald Clarke. I like an eclectic mix of music but an 80s playlist would be high up my list. That said my favourite thing to listen to is a Desert Island Discs podcast.