Morton Fraser expands operation in Edinburgh

by A Staff Writer
© The Herald
Originally published: 28.05.2008
Expansion is on the agenda at Morton Fraser. Next autumn this dynamic law firm will relocate from its offices in Queen Street, Edinburgh, to the new Quartermile Two development on the site of the former Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

This move, coupled with a planned expansion of its Glasgow operation, will enable the firm to achieve its strategy of further substantial growth.

These are exciting times for Morton Fraser, not least for its commercial litigation team, one of the largest in Scotland.

"We're involved in a wide range of litigation cases across the public and private sectors in Scotland and beyond, " said Ewan McIntyre, head of the litigation division.

"Our big-name clients include Royal Mail, Barclays Bank, Lloyds TSB Scotland, RBS Invoice Finance, Fortis, a leasing company, and the Scottish Government, which has appointed us to its panel of legal advisers, which has been reduced in size.

"At present, we have 70 litigation staff, including nine partners, and expect to grow that number further. In the financial year just ended, we exceeded our target income and almost doubled the number of instructions we undertook. Indeed, we have more than doubled our turnover in the past five years."

Over the past few weeks, the firm has played a key role in major litigation cases which hit the national headlines.

"In relation to its takeover by Carlsberg & Heineken, a deal worth GBP7.8bn, partner Joy Barnard was a key member of the Morton Fraser team advising Scottish & Newcastle on the scheme of arrangement, " McIntyre said. "We are also instructed by the Ministry of Defence on the RAF Nimrod crash in Afghanistan in 2006."

The third headline case in which Morton Fraser has been involved is the topical issue of bank overdraft charges.

"We have been advising Nationwide, " said Maggie Moodie, a partner in the litigation division. "There seems to be a general perception that the banks have lost the OFT test case. That is not so.

"The recent decision is only stage one. The court found that the charges were subject to consumer contract regulations but that the charges were not penalty charges and the banks' terms and conditions were in clear, intelligible language."

Maggie Moodie is seen by Morton Fraser as a key recruit to its litigation team. An expert in insolvency and commercial litigation, she joined in March from HBJ Gateley Wareing, where she was head of litigation for nine years.

"I approached Morton Fraser because I was aware it was an excellent firm with great people, " she recalled. "Since I've been here, my impressions have just got better. From week one, I've seen that the firm is well run, highly professional and open. Staff are treated very well and enjoy coming to work."

Much of her workload at Morton Fraser has been influenced by the current economic climate, especially the credit crunch.

"The overall situation is still unclear, " she explained. "From my perspective, serious problems which have so far arisen have tended to be on the personal rather than corporate front.

"As for property values, there is likely to be a decline but it may not be evenly spread."

McIntyre views her as a valuable acquisition. "Maggie is a respected commercial litigator and the clients and markets we serve are right for her, " he said. "She is a popular individual who brings energy and drive. The team are delighted to have her on board.

"Her arrival makes us even stronger in insolvency and corporate recovery, as her expertise complements that of fellow litigation partner, Joy Barnard, one of only a few Scottish lawyers to hold the Joint Insolvency Examination Board qualification."

The team offers skills across the spectrum of commercial litigation. Its expertise embraces mediation, construction and property disputes, debt recovery and insolvency, contract and partnership disputes, professional negligence, personal injury claims, employment tribunals, intellectual property and technology law, insurance claims, licensing and planning and environmental law.

Two other specialisms it has added to its portfolio are health and safety law, where it advises corporate clients on potential liabilities, and immigration law for employers and individuals.

Though Morton Fraser enjoys client praise for its niche specialisms, what gives McIntyre most satisfaction is the breadth and quality of the overall service the litigation division provides.

"We pride ourselves that we can handle efficiently any aspect of commercial litigation work we are asked to fulfil, " he said. "That is what lies behind our success and will enable us to go on expanding."