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Technology, health, renewables and energy transition drive growth at law firm Burness Paull

The Global Producer III floating production storage and offloading vessel serves a cluster of fields bought by Neo Energy, with some help from Burness Paull, from Total in 2020.
The Global Producer III floating production storage and offloading vessel serves a cluster of fields bought by Neo Energy, with some help from Burness Paull, from Total in 2020.

Scottish commercial law firm Burness Paull credited a strong performance in key sectors for a near-40% jump in annual profits.

And hailing a successful year to July 31, 2021, it said an “intense programme of client listening and rapid response” during the pandemic led to a 19% increase in revenue.

Profits before partner distributions and revenue rocketed to £33.3 million, up by 39%, and £72m respectively.

Our results have no doubt benefitted from the timing of our financial year, as we’ve seen a few more months of the upturn than some other firms.”

Peter Lawson, chairman, Burness Paull.

Burness Paull – created through the 2012 merger of Aberdeen-based Paull & Williamsons and larger central belt rival Burness – is one of Scotland’s largest law firms.

It employs more than 550 people, including 76 partners, across its key locations of Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The firm said success during the past year was underpinned by strong performances by its corporate finance, banking & funds, litigation and employment teams, as well as growth in key sectors such as technology, health, renewables and energy transition.

‘Trailblazers’

Chairman Peter Lawson said: “Our commitment to building deeper client relationships was under way prior to the pandemic and we took the decision at the outset of lockdown to accelerate that support.

“Our employment team, in particular, were trailblazers in offering early-stage guidance and direction for what was an incredibly troubling set of circumstances for the client community.”

Burness Paull chairman Peter Lawson

Mr Lawson added: “Our results have no doubt benefitted from the timing of our financial year, as we’ve seen a few more months of the upturn than some other firms.

“However, our performance has been significantly boosted from the prior year by investments in recruitment and people development, innovation and, most importantly, an unwavering commitment to the needs of our clients and their response to shifts in the markets they operate in.”

Green energy and ESG ‘uptick’

The firm’s dealmaking activity saw a dip last year, Mr Lawson said, but he added: “The market has bounced back very strongly and our exceptional expertise in M&A (mergers and acquisitions) and private equity across the UK and internationally has seen our teams involved in some incredibly high-profile deals, particularly in the technology sector.

“We have also seen an uptick in green energy projects and ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investments.”

Three-year growth plan

Burness Paull’s strength in corporate finance and international reach will be a major advantage as the economy recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, the chairman added.

It is hoped a new three-year strategic plan will see the firm continue to combine investment in attracting and developing legal talent with “class-leading” technology to drive further innovation and efficiency in the way Burness Paull delivers its services.

Key hires for Burness Paull during the 2020-21 trading year included one of the UK’s leading energy sector lawyers, Aberdeen-based Bob Ruddiman, joining in May.

Bob Ruddiman

Notable energy sector activities for the firm during the period included it advising i3 Energy on a £30m equity placing and acting for Neo Energy Group as part of the acquisition of UK North Sea assets from Total Exploration and Production.

Burness Paull also advised financial services firm abrdn on its acquisition of artificial intelligence platform Exo, while the firm said the growing importance of ESG was evident in its “pro bono support” for World Wildlife Fund investment in Oban-based kelp farming business Oceanium.

‘Extremely challenging’

Mr Lawson said: “The last year has been extremely challenging for all of our people. The lengths everyone has gone to in order to deliver first-class support to clients while continuing to work remotely has been an outstanding tribute to the high-performing culture we have within the firm.”

He added these efforts were rewarded by bigger bonuses across the business, while the firm also increased its commitments to the Burness Paull Foundation – allowing it to provide increased support to “charitable partners who were very much in need of extra help as a result of the pandemic”.

Legal market ‘evolving quickly’

Mr Lawson continued: “We are now focused on delivering the next steps in our plan to cement the firm’s shift from steady to efficient growth through targeted expansion into key sectors.

“The legal market is evolving quickly due to the impact of technology. We’ve already benefitted… from that shift, with the early adoption of new software solutions and process change, and we’ll continue to innovate in the interests of our clients and our people.”


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