Douglas Connell's interview with The Scotsman

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Douglas Connell talks to Gareth Mackie of The Scotsman about the evolution of Turcan Connell since it was established 15 years ago, and his vision for the future of the firm.
 
“I’ve had a terrific 15 years – it’s been the most satisfying period in my professional life. Creating and building something is very satisfying.”
 
He says the firm is eight times the size it was back in 1997 and is aiming to ensure continued growth by developing the next generation of lawyers and other advisers within the business, which is carving a niche in the renewable energy sector and manages £700 million of funds at its wealth management arm.
 
Despite its focus on families and a determination to develop the next generation, Connell insists that he does not see the firm itself as a family.
 
“I see it as a group of professionals working very closely together. It may take a long time to become experienced in all our professional areas, but certainly in private client work it takes a long time to be taken seriously as an individual.”
 
One of the consequences of the financial crisis, Connell believes, is that grey hair and experience are very much in demand. “People are looking for seasoned advice,” he says.

Following a number of high-profile mergers and acquisitions across Scotland’s legal sector, Douglas insists that “Turcan Connell is one of relatively few Scottish law firms that isn’t considering any form of merger, being taken over by an English firm or being absorbed into an international practice.”
 
“We’ve carefully built up our business and our brand over these last 15 years and we’re determined that we won’t do anything to damage or
dilute it by hopping into bed with another firm which might not share our culture.”

Aside from rampant consolidation, the largest shake-up on the horizon for Scotland’s law firms is the impending introduction of “alternative business structures” (ABS), which will allow non-solicitors to own law firms, in effect opening up the market to allow other companies to offer legal services.
 
Although the legislative framework allowing ABS in Scotland is in place, it may be another six months before the regulatory structure comes into operation.
 
Connell says the delay has been “frustrating” because he is keen to enable non-solicitors at the firm to become equity partners.
 
“We’re not looking for third-party equity, we want the
opportunity to treat our senior colleagues fairly,” he explains.
 
“We’re not worried about being the first, but we intend to be at the forefront of the changes.”
 
Connell believes the new structure could be the “key to survival” for small law firms outside Scotland’s cities which would be able to team up with accountants and pension advisers to give an integrated service to clients.

Despite the opportunities to expand through acquisitions, he says the firm has never seen itself as a “consolidator of other businesses” and is instead determined to grow gradually and organically.
 
“That’s largely due to our culture, and acquiring other businesses can mean acquiring a lot of baggage,” he says.
 
“What I think will happen in terms of the growth of this business is very selective acquisition of individuals and teams.
 
“There’s a lot of change happening, and a lot of negativity about, but I’m very positive about the future.”

To read the article in full, click here.