BRODIES managing partner Bill Drummond has had quite a run, transforming the firm from a sub-£10 million practice into a £65m Scottish leader in just under two decades.
In the last ten years alone Brodies has weathered a financial crisis and recession that claimed long-established names such as McClure Naismith and Tods Murray to secure its place as the country’s largest independent law firm.
And though the growth in turnover has been impressive - a 210 per cent rise from £21m in 2005/06 to £65m last year - it has not been achieved at the expense of profitability, which rose by 265 per cent from £8.5m to £31m over the period.
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That Mr Drummond has been the driving force behind the growth is unquestionable, although he admitted that he never envisioned still being in the driving seat 19 years after succeeding George Taylor as managing partner on 1 May 1998.
“I expected to be thrown out three years later,” he said.
As luck would have it, though, he took over just as technology was beginning to revolutionise the way that law was practised, which allowed him to really make his mark on the firm.
“If you go back to my early days one of my tasks was to modernise the business,” he said.
“That started with the use of technology and bringing it up to speed, but the big-bang moment for Brodies was to go from a paper-based time recording system to an online one. That was in about 2000.
“I was told at the time we were the only firm that had chosen to move everyone onto that new system with no-one allowed to opt out.
“That accelerated our change to a modern business.”
The ‘no opt-out clause’ is key to the way Mr Drummond has managed the firm ever since, with him taking responsibility for running the business so his fellow partners could concentrate on advising on the law.
Although that may seem commonplace now, as recently as 1998 law firms were notoriously consensus driven, with hours of partner time being taken up with voting on everything from the colour and tread of a new carpet to the brand of biscuits in client meeting rooms.
“I knew that within the business there was an enormous reservoir of talent - it was a question of organising it in a way that was more focused on fundamental business principles,” Mr Drummond said.
“It was about allowing lawyers to be really good lawyers and being more clear about the sort of business we were.”
Although Brodies has emerged unscathed from the turmoil of the last ten years, the legal sector has been turned on its head, with centuries’ old brands disappearing from the market and the traditional partnership model looking increasingly more obsolete.
This, said Mr Drummond, makes the job of selling change to the firm’s partners an easier one.
“Embracing change might be one thing that’s easier to explain to partners now,” he said. “They do know that change is the only constant and it’s not as hard to convince people that we have to be relevant and fit for purpose.
“Never a day goes by when we are not driving change in some element of the business. It might be a new IT system or a new development out of the Brexit situation.”
Although Mr Drummond said the “one thing that I’ve promised myself not to do is read every single comment every day about what Article 50 might mean or not mean”, he admitted that the implications of constitutional change are always near the top of his agenda at the moment.
Not that he believes the impact of Brexit or a potential second Scottish independence referendum will be too hard on Scottish businesses.
“The last referendum didn’t impact on the amount of business being done,” he said. “Some people were spooked, others were not.”
Still, with the UK heading for a general election at the same time as negotiating its exit from the European Union, all while the spectre of a further independence referendum looms over the Scottish electorate, Mr Drummond admitted that “it’s a perplexing time just now”.
“It’s not quite like the situation when there was the banking crisis, which obviously precipitated the worst recession even I have seen,” he said.
“I think businesses are seeing it as necessary to get on with things just now [although] it’s an interesting time and slightly perplexing in some ways to try to guess what’s going to happen.”