A further shake-up in the way the country's legal service is organised was signalled yesterday when the Mackinnon stable of advocates announced a move to Glasgow.

The 30-strong group, which includes Donald Findlay, one of Scotland's top criminal lawyers, becomes the first in the 475-year history of the Faculty of Advocates to operate from outside Edinburgh.

Mackinnon, one of 11 stables, said it was "the most striking change so far during a year of transformation within the faculty".

The Faculty of Advocates, which comprises Scotland's 460-plus practising advocates and QCs as well as many of the country's judges, sheriffs and academics, stressed that the stable had not "devolved" from Faculty Services Ltd (FSL), its service arm set up in 1971 to provide admin support.

Almost all advocates pay a proportion of their fees to subscribe to FSL, which provides a limited range of functions such as clerking to assisting advocates organise their work.

The 17-year-old Mackinnon stable takes its name from practice manager Banny Mackinnon, who runs the new stable HQ from the high court building in Glasgow.

Thomas Ross, a criminal defence advocate and director of the Mackinnon stable, said there were sound business and service reasons for a stable basing itself in the west of Scotland.

"Glasgow is a major commercial centre, the high court is the busiest in Scotland and the sheriff court has the reputation of being the busiest in Europe," he said. "I think there is a public perception of the faculty as being rooted in Edinburgh but there are now three universities in Glasgow offering law degrees and the Mackinnon stable is living proof that it is not necessary to move from Glasgow to Edinburgh to pursue a career at the bar," he said.

Mackinnon said stables had been looking at how they could provide the best possible service for solicitors and clients in an increasingly competitive market.

"There are 26 sheriffs in Glasgow with four to five jury trials every day," added Mr Ross. "There are specialist family and commercial courts and a number of other tribunals dealing with issues such as asylum and immigration, social security and child support."

The move comes just months after two devolved chambers, Compass and Axiom, were set up in what was described as the biggest change in the country's legal service for centuries.

The new bodies have greater say in areas such as membership and marketing while retaining the economies of scale made possible by FSL.

It was understood it would mean they could also choose who to appoint as clerks, who to have as members, how much to pay clerks and have freedom within the existing rules of the faculty to advertise and determine their own business terms with clients.

As far back as the 16th century, joining the Scottish bar meant becoming a fully fledged member of the Faculty of Advocates, giving admittance to practise as an advocate before the Scotland's courts.

Six years ago, some of Scotland's most respected criminal defence advocates, understood to include Mr Findlay, were thought to be threatening to split the legal profession by moving to stop solicitors from taking their business.

They believed they could win business more easily by forming a new association, independent of the Faculty of Advocates.