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Big cut in profits for Edinburgh lawyers

When Edinburgh lawyers have taken a 50% pay cut, times must be hard.

Tods Murray, one of the Scottish law firms big in property and finance, has revealed that profits payable to its 43 members (formerly partners) crashed from £8.7m to £4.5m over the two years to last March.

That means the average pay-out per lawyer has fallen from a champagne £197,873 three years ago to an Irn-Bru £104,975 last year.

Not that everyone is on the average. The “highest remuneration (previously profit) attributable to any one member” at Tods Murray has slumped from the swashbuckling £237,746 paid (it is assumed) to former executive partner Peter Misselbrook in 2007 to the austere £126,132 picked up in his first year in the job by successor David Dunsire.

“In common with the rest of the legal profession, Tods Murray has had to face unprecedented challenges over the past 18 months,” Dunsire told The Herald. “That is reflected in the results for the year to March 2009 where while remaining profitable we saw turnover fall slightly. Against that backdrop, we have taken the opportunity to review and adapt our business strategy going forward. We believe that our firm will be stronger in the long term as a result and we remain confident in our future development.”

A survey late last year by business advisers PKF found 62% of law firms expecting to increase partner profits this year and 31% expected no change.

Tods Murray’s biggest business was property, historically accounting for 40% of revenue, along with strength in securitisation and asset-backed finance.

Tods held its fee-earners at 87 between 2008 and 2009, but chopped its secretarial staff from 43 to 31 and support staff from 67 to 52. Administrative expenses however rose from £1.48m to £1.63m, with bank debt up from £1.9m to £2.5m. Net assets dipped from £8m to £7.5m

The firm has recently worked on two property deals worth £75m for Cooperative Insurance Services, and six supermarkets and a Scottish distribution centre for Tesco. A spokeswoman said Tods was enjoying “continuing referral work from the City of London and new business wins”.