* LORNE Crerar joined Ross Harper & Murphy eight years ago to form its

commercial division, which consisted at the time of one other solicitor

and two support staff.

Today, Harper MacLeod has a staff of 84 -- 25 of them solicitors --

and accounts for 25% of the practice's fee income.

Lorne decided in the very early days of the new division that it would

have to do something different if it was to have any chance of breaking

into a field dominated by long-established firms.

''It is a difficult market,'' he says. ''We had to show we were

different, and to use new marketing skills.''

To demonstrate this difference Harper Macleod has developed in

specialist areas which perhaps the more stuffier of corporate legal

practices would have ignored.

There is, for example, its Sports Law Unit and the partnership was a

founder member of the British Association for Sport and Law.

''The involvement of sport in legal proceedings is becoming more of a

daily feature of our life,'' says Lorne Crerar. ''We are not creating

the situation, only responding to need.''

Harper Macleod's interest in sport is not surprising given that Lorne

is himself a rugby referee, and staff members run a five-a-side football

team and frequently play 10-pin bowling.

The partners also spotted the changes taking place in local government

and formed a Local and Public Authority Unit to take advantage of these.

Last year the unit successfully tendered for the legal work of

Stirling District Council.

Lorne Crerar is particularly proud of the firm's record in introducing

legal health checks for companies, a practice which has been emulated by

the Law Society for Scotland, and also Harper Macleod's pioneering of an

''alternative insolvency strategy''.

He says: ''Our methods encourage continuation of the business and cut

down the expenses incurred by banks and their customers. Under the old

system banks were receiving a low asset return, and were being hit by

massive fees. Now more firms manage out their problems.''

Lorne Crerar does not want Harper Macleod to become too big, but still

expects the practice to grow by a third.

On the sports front he is now looking at Outward Bound activities,

which is an apt description for his aspirations in both work and play.