Harper Macleod’s roots go back to 1988, when Lorne Crerar, later to become Professor Lorne Crerar CBE and chairman of the firm, led a small group, with another partner, and converted the nascent business division of a Glasgow court firm into a separate commercial practice. Professor Crerar was warned by stalwarts of the profession that building a commercial law firm of scale from scratch just couldn’t be done, a challenge that was readily taken up. Harpers, as the legal startup was known, subsequently took over a niche corporate firm called Macleods to become Harper Macleod, and the rest is history.
In 2002, Martin Darroch joined the firm as Finance Director and in 2006 became the first-ever non-lawyer Chief Executive of a Scottish law firm. The firm’s growth was meteoric, expanding its footprint all over Scotland as it quickly became one of the country’s leading firms and a pioneer in changing the way legal partnerships operated. From the start, Harper Macleod was a business that just happened to be a law firm.
Today, Harper Macleod is one of the largest professional partnerships in Scotland, serving clients and their interests in Scotland, the UK and beyond. The firm has grown consistently in scale, in finances and also in terms of the role it plays in the civic and economic community across Scotland.
The firm’s core values have remained consistent over many years. We are:
- Entrepreneurial & Innovative
- Open & Collaborative
- Responsible & Ethical
But what does this mean in practice?
Leading the way to make a positive difference
We have embedded Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) principles into our operations to ensure that we follow through on our commitments to contribute positively to our economic and natural environment and improve the quality of life for our stakeholder groups.
We take our responsibilities seriously. We are not only here to succeed as a business, but at the same time to make a positive difference in every aspect of our activities. Our impact goes beyond the legal advice we provide and its implications, extending to what our activities mean to people and the planet. We integrate social and environmental considerations into all aspects of our operations, as well as relationships with stakeholders including our colleagues and profession; our clients; our suppliers; our communities; our country and our planet.
Annual Report 2022/23
The world of Harper Macleod is driven by relationships. The relationships we hold with clients, communities and colleagues are important to make a positive difference. This publication outlines what we feel have been our highlights for the last 12 months which have been achieved as a result of those strong relationships.View the report
HM Community was created to help the firm achieve its strategic objectives while staying true to our values.
Scotland’s Natural Capital, our natural assets and the services and value that come from them, is at the heart of so much of the work we carry out at Harper Macleod. How we nurture, protect, manage and make use of our natural ecosystem is fundamental to the country having a healthy and sustainable economy.
Much of the work we do involves helping in the development of communities, the rural and marine economies, and making the most of our Natural Capital. Nature-based solutions to climate change – renewable energy, forestry planting, peatland restoration, changes in farming practices and much more – are among the efforts to better look after our Natural Capital.
We put Climate Change at the heart of our practice. In 2019, Scotland declared a global emergency and set some of the world’s toughest climate change legislation, with a legal requirement to meet net zero carbon emissions by 2045. Our specialists throughout the firm advise organisations and businesses throughout Scotland and beyond on issues which affect and are affected by the need to make significant changes to the way we all do things.
Every year we host both the Scottish Highlands Renewable Energy Conference (SHREC) and the Scottish Highlands and Islands Rural Economy Conference (SHIRE) and we also celebrate and promote Scotland’s marine economy during our Marine Economy Week – all of which put a focus on Scotland’s abundance of Natural Capital.
Our environmental policy recognises our clear commitment to improving our business practices to make a positive impact on the environment. Through an environmental scan and audit process, and working in partnership with our key stakeholder groups, we recognise, evaluate and adopt “best practice” methods to minimise the impact of our business on the environment.
Greener Actions – litigating in a changing climate
Greener Actions is an ESG project aimed at reducing the environmental impact when resolving disputes in Scotland, within a framework of responsible Environmental, Social and Governance criteria.
Created and launched by Harper Macleod, it provides a forum for court users across the country to come together to identify areas in which we can use technology, innovation and legislation to reduce the carbon footprint of dispute resolution, and to form an action plan through which that change will be implemented.
We take great care in how we manage relationships with colleagues, suppliers, clients, and the communities in which we operate.
Health and wellbeing is central to our culture. Our Wellbeing Group drives initiatives aimed at promoting positive mental & physical health through our active, mindful and healthy programme, as well as reinforcing our colleague engagement activities, all of which we encourage our people to share with family and friends. It creates an inclusive, healthy, safe and stimulating place to work.
We fully embrace the concept of work life balance and have a range of flexible working opportunities, with many of our colleagues working flexible, part time or reduced hours, and working from home. We were recognised as one of Scotland’s top flexible working employers to watch in 2021 (Flexible Employer Awards).
Investors in People
We are accredited by both Investors in People (Gold) and Investors in Young People (Gold).
The Gold IIYP rewards and recognise employers who demonstrate excellence in recruiting, developing and retaining young people.
We were awarded the highest level Gold in recognition of our Modern Apprenticeship programme, our work with schools and education providers, our summer placement and work experience programmes and the examples of young people who have progressed in the firm.
The IIP framework recognises organisations that lead, support and develop their workforce effectively and we have been recognised as an Investor In People since 1998, being the first commercial law firm in Scotland to be accredited.
Scottish Business Pledge
Harper Macleod is a Scottish Business Pledge Partner, which demonstrates our commitment to promoting fairness, equality, opportunity and innovation in Scotland. Through our Scottish Business Pledge we are committed to the Fair Work First framework.
Young Person’s Guarantee
Harper Macleod has committed to the Scottish Government’s Young Person’s Guarantee, which aims to bring together employers, partners and young people by connecting 16 to 24 year olds in Scotland to an opportunity.
Our aim is for our colleagues and clients to feel included, valued and nurtured within their business environment irrespective of their race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical and mental abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. We promote the importance of diversity internally and externally by developing our culture and our practice and we work hard to ensure that our colleagues are ambassadors for the firm when interfacing with the public.
We were awarded the Promoting Diversity – Large Employer of the Year Award at the Scottish Apprenticeship Awards 2021.
“The winner of this award is committed to supporting apprentices from all backgrounds to reach their full potential. They work with their learning provider and develop the young workforce to open up apprenticeship opportunities for Scotland’s young people, with particular focus on supporting those from more deprived areas into the world of work. And, through collaborating with equalities organisations, they support apprentices with additional support needs to succeed and progress in their careers. The firm also operates an equality diversity and inclusion group which delivers awareness, campaigns and events, and has positively impacted gender balance and diversity across their apprenticeships.”
We encourage our lawyers to give something back to the profession, and many of our solicitors lecture at different universities throughout Scotland.
Community initiatives & pro bono advice
We get involved in initiatives in the community and use our skills and resources to support those in need and to improve access to justice. We provide a range of pro bono legal services to community and charitable organisations, in particular a longstanding partnership with the National Autistic Society Scotland to deliver the Education Rights Service to parents in Scotland. Since the alliance began in 2006 the firm has supported the service by providing free representation to scores of families and helping parents secure the educational support they need for their children.
A number of our people sit on the governing bodies of charitable and not-for-profit bodies, while all of our colleagues are given up to two CSR days per annum for charitable/voluntary work.
Harper Macleod meets rigorous governance standards, both as a regulated professional business and through the way it operates internally.
The firm has robust risk and compliance measures in place to meet its obligations in relation to issues including: cyber security; information security; bribery; data protection; money laundering; modern slavery and more.
The business is also structured in a way that provides transparency over decision making and financial performance and remuneration.
Awards & independent recognition
Harper Macleod has been repeatedly recognised by our clients, peers and independent bodies. Below you can see a snapshot of our achievements, a testament to our relentless focus on improvement.
- 8 x Scottish Law Firm of the Year
- Recognised by the Times as one of Scotland’s best law firms
- 5 x Managing Team of the Year
- Scottish Apprenticeship Awards – Promoting Diversity – Large Employer of the Year 2021
- Flexibility Works Employer Awards – One to Watch 2021
- CSR Award at Scottish Business Awards & CSR Firm of the Year at Law Awards of Scotland
- Health & Wellbeing Award at Scotland’s Best Employer Awards
- Employer of the Year at Enterprise 250 Awards
- Value for Money Award at the DWP Supplier Excellence Awards
- People Management Award at MPF European Practice Management Awards
- Lifetime Achievement Awards for both Professor Lorne Crerar (2019) and the late Professor Robert Rennie (2015)
Over the years our legal teams have picked up a number of awards.
Legal Directories & Times Best Law Firms
“Chambers’ bread and butter is revealing which firms have the best lawyers and departments for your legal matter. Brodies and Burness Paull remain Chambers’ Celtic and Rangers – you have to go back the best part of a decade to find a different top-two. Beyond this, though, there is more movement. For a start, Harper Macleod has climbed from seventh position just two years ago to fourth, looking at their number of ranked departments. This is perhaps a bigger achievement than it might sound, given the fact that it is rare for the legal market to change dramatically in any given year.” Chambers UK research director Alex Marsh (The Scotsman, Nov 22)
The Times Best Law Firms 2023 ranked the firm as one of the top firms in Scotland. The prestigious Best Law Firms rankings are considered the list of ‘lawyer’s lawyers’, being based on solicitors being commended by their peers in other firms around the country.