20 November 2017

  |  CBI Scotland


MMS becomes Dentons

Kenneth Shand, Senior Partner Scotland and a UK board member of Dentons, discusses how Maclay, Murray & Spens became part of the world's largest law firm.  

MMS becomes Dentons

News that Maclay, Murray & Spens (MMS) has joined Dentons may have come as a surprise to some, but we'd been exploring opportunities to enhance our platform, through merger or otherwise, for some while. We took our time to do so carefully, which is perhaps why MMS was able to land the ideal combination: becoming part of the world's largest law firm.

Greater UK-wide scale and global reach were at the heart of our reasoning when the MMS leadership decided it was time to move on from our position as a successful firm operating mainly in a relatively small market. We are very fortunate to have a broad range of clients, from private individuals to small businesses, government bodies, large corporates and institutions.

Some instruct us on purely local Scottish matters. Others seek our advice throughout the UK. Others require a depth of expertise and access to advice and connections across the globe. As an ambitious law firm, with some fantastic clients, seeking to attract more business and to deliver seamless services on a local, national and international basis, there were compelling factors driving us in that direction.

We also had in mind the ambition of young Scottish lawyers who will one day comprise our next generation of partners and solicitors. In order to keep attracting the most creative and talented professionals to our offices, it is important to offer opportunities to be involved across the full range of top quality national and international work, throughout all areas of the firm.

The accelerating, relentless march of technology also featured large in our thinking. Technology is having a big impact on legal practice, just as it has on finance and other professional services. Through scale and technological innovation, Dentons is at the forefront of such developments, bringing economies of scale we can deploy to the mutual benefit of the firm and our clients and new applications to enhance the services we provide.

While we represent a large number of high quality clients in Scotland, the Scottish commercial legal market is fairly small, and is becoming smaller in relative terms. One key reason for this is an ongoing change in the way institutions and large companies appoint advisory panels. Some are cutting back on the number of law firms on these panels; others are doing away with separate Scottish panels altogether or no longer seeking specific Scottish panel representatives.

This has posed particular challenges for law firms in Scotland, going back to the financial crisis, and many firms have had to adapt their business models as a result. We were not the only firm to have sought further business from south of the border, and I am proud of how our London office has performed, and the work it has also brought north of the border.

Some of the Scottish law firms that don't have their own London offices have been quite successful in picking up referral work from City law firms, and full credit to them. However, we see the opportunities for that diminishing, as more national firms establish footholds in Scotland. In the longer term, over-reliance on referrals from external sources is a precarious strategy and I believe a robust and thoroughly integrated UK-wide and global presence offers stronger guarantees for the future, both for our people and our clients.

As commerce becomes ever more global, clients expect their lawyers to be able to conduct international business and offer high quality advice in any jurisdiction. Being part of a global law firm, with offices on the ground across six continents, will enable us to handle international work on a very smooth basis and offer a cast iron guarantee to clients with global businesses or ambitions of their own. In joining Dentons, we have become the only truly global player with a significant presence in the Scottish legal market.

For our existing clients, large and small, domestic and international, we see the merger as hugely positive. Clients will greatly benefit from our local coverage and expertise, and from our global reach and the cutting edge services to which we now have access.

As the world's first global polycentric law firm, Dentons has no single global headquarters or dominant culture across its 158 locations spanning 66 countries, where each of its offices is truly “in and of” the local community. Factors such as local identity, expertise and culture are central to Dentons’ strategic growth philosophy. These were very important considerations to the MMS leadership as we explored potential merger partners, enabling us to continue representing the full range of clients we have enjoyed assisting over the years and, we hope, to attract new clients with the benefit of the enhanced scale and reach now available.

In a challenging climate, where clients are looking for ever greater value, law firms and many other businesses need outstanding talent and reach. As part of the Dentons family, we look forward to working with our new colleagues around the world in building the law firm of the future.

Kenneth Shand is Senior Partner, Scotland, and a UK board member of Dentons  www.dentons.com