ABOUT 500 lawyers and assorted friends and colleagues turned out at Glasgow's Crowne Plaza hotel last week for the LawAwards of Scotland 2006, sponsored by The Firm magazine and supported by The Herald.

Thursday's attendance was remarkable for an event which is just three years old and reflected the record number of entries received this time round.

Harper Macleod scooped the coveted large Law Firm of the Year gong, capping an impressive rise to prominence for the practice led by Professor Lorne Crerar. The practice celebrated a 30per cent rise in turnover in the year to March 31, to GBP10.4m, and saw profit per equity partner jump 36per cent to GBP240,000.

Crerar is projecting turnover growth this year at mid-point in the 7per cent-13per cent range notched up by the other mid-to-large Scottish firms over the last 12 months, with a major expansion of its Glasgow office, a further growth drive for its property law activities - to which it recently recruited another partner - and more to come from a recent further strengthening of its Edinburgh office.

The firm now has more than 100 fee earners, compared with 67 in 2004. The surge in profit per equity partner (PPEP), of which there were 17 out of 32 partners in all during the year, "in part reflected the reinvestment of profits in this and in information technology, and therefore the lower increase in PPEP, in the previous year", Crerar said recently. The firm's profits have grown by 210per cent over the past five years.

Crerar commented: "We are absolutely delighted to have received this award, in what is one of the most competitive awards in the legal calendar. To be singled out solely on merit from an initial survey of businesses throughout Scotland is a tremendous achievement for us and a reflection of Harper Macleod's innovative and responsive culture."

The Managing Partner of the Year award went to Alistair Morris of Pagan Osborne, one of the profession's most progressive management thinkers. Earlier this year his firm launched a new corporate identity which the firm says better reflects its "pioneering one-stop shop approach" to private client services.

Cupar, Fife-headquartered Pagan Osborne demerged its business law division three years ago to focus on wealth management, a strategy which has proved conspicuously successful.

2006 saw the introduction of a new judging process designed to make the Law Awards of Scotland the only truly independent legal awards in the country. It was split into two stages. Stage one saw more than 2500 clients polled to find out how they rate their legal services providers, and 4000 legal professionals canvassed to give their views on their peers.

Stage two saw all the firms and professionals to achieve a high rating invited to submit a 1000-word report outlining why they deserved to be named as a winner in their category.

The judging panel that assessed these reports was chaired by leading QC and MSP Gordon Jackson. He was joined on the panel by Rosalind McInnes of BBC Scotland, Professor Peter Robson of Strathclyde University, Robert Pirrie of the WS Society, Innes Christie of Aegon UK, and Richard Draycott, editor of The Firm.

The LawAwards of Scotland 2006 were supported by many of Scotland's leading suppliers to the legal profession.

These included: Acumen Financial Planning, Hudson, Hammond Resources, The Society of Specialist Paralegals, Axiom Business Computers, Stirling Park, Professional Office Supplies, Central Law Training (Scotland) Ltd, and The Herald.

Law Awards of Scotland 2006

Chairman's Award Sponsored by LexisNexis Visualfiles Winner: Bill Miller, Drummond Miller

Lifetime Achievement Award Sponsored by The Herald Winner: Graeme H Pagan, MBE, Hosack & Sutherland

Law Firm of Year (over 50 fee earners) Sponsored by Acumen Financial Planning Winner: Harper Macleod

Law Firm of Year (under 50 fee earners) Sponsored by Hammond Resources Winner: Anderson Fyfe

Solicitor of Year (over 30) Sponsored by Professional Office Supplies Winner: Brian Inkster, Inksters

Managing Partner of Year Sponsored by Central Law Training (Scotland) Ltd Winner: Alistair Morris, Pagan Osborne

Paralegal of Year Sponsored by The Society of Specialist Paralegals Winner: Wende Wraight, ShepherdCWedderburn

Family Law Firm of Year Winner: Mowat Hall Dick

Criminal Law Firm of Year Winner: Beltrami Anwar

Private Client Firm of Year Sponsored by Hudson Winner: Turcan Connell

Up and Coming Law Firm of Year Winner: MBM Commercial

Employment Firm of Year Winner: Brodies

In-house Lawyer of Year Winner: Veronica Gallagher, Balfour Beatty

Commercial Property Firm of Year Sponsored by Axiom Business Computers Winner: Bell & Scott

Litigation Firm of Year Sponsored by Stirling Park Winner: Burness

Corporate Law Firm of Year Sponsored by MacDonald Reid Scott Winner: ShepherdCWedderburn

Corporate Lawyer of Year Sponsored by Hammond Resources Winner: David Kaye, Bell & Scott

Young Lawyer of Year Sponsored by WS Society Winner: Sara Grewar, Drummond Miller

Legal Personality of Year Sponsored by Stirling Park Winner: Philip Rodney, Burness

Trainee of Year Sponsored by Scottish Legal Aid Board Winner: Lorraine Barrie, Govan Law Centre