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Harper Macleod expands into Shetland as one of the islands’ leading law firms joins up

Harper Macleod LLP, one of Scotland’s biggest law firms, has announced its expansion into Shetland after acquiring the business of Dowle, Smith & Rutherford (DSR).

Led by Partners Christopher Dowle and Paul Rutherford, DSR’s full complement of 12 people will join Harper Macleod from 1 October 2015, adding to the firm’s existing offices in Inverness, Thurso, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Shetland Harper Macleod Dowle Smith And Rutherford (1)

Pictured from left: Chris Dowle, Professor Lorne Crerar, Paul Rutherford and Donald Munro

Professor Lorne Crerar, Chairman of Harper Macleod, said: “This is a unique opportunity for our firm to enter one of the most interesting and dynamic economies in the whole of Scotland.

“DSR is one of the islands’ leading legal brands and this is a mutually beneficial opportunity for both firms, adding the full weight of Harper Macleod’s commercial and personal legal offering to the existing services provided to current and future clients.

“We know Chris and Paul very well, having worked closely with the firm for many years through our HM Connect referral network of 275 firms across the country. We are delighted to be welcoming them to the firm and to have the opportunity to deliver excellent legal services both on Shetland and beyond.”

Based in St Olaf’s Hall in Lerwick, Dowle, Smith & Rutherford has a broad legal practice and is also one of Shetland’s leading estate agencies. From 1 October, the Shetland office will be renamed as Harper Macleod incorporating Dowle, Smith & Rutherford.

The business will make a significant contribution to Harper Macleod’s turnover, which hit a record £22.1 million in the past financial year.

Paul Rutherford and Christopher Dowle of DSR said they were delighted to join forces with one of Scotland’s leading law firms.

Paul said: “There has been a close bond between Dowle, Smith & Rutherford and Harper Macleod for many years and this integration is great news for our all of our clients and our people. The most important factor for us is being able to deliver excellence of service to our clients. Being part of such a successful business will give them access to a much greater range of expertise and strength in depth, while providing continuity of the service they have come to expect.

“Through Lorne and others, Harper Macleod knows the islands well and shares our vision, both for now and the future. We look forward to growing even stronger as part of such a renowned brand in the Scottish legal market.”

Harper Macleod is already on the panel of law firms which provide support to Shetland Islands Council, and Professor Crerar explained the reasons behind one of Scotland’s largest firms establishing a presence in its most remote community.

He said: “We are already established as the leading full service legal brand across the Highlands and Islands, with offices in Inverness and Thurso, and have never been afraid to go where we see an opportunity. We have built a sustainable legal business at a time when other models clearly aren’t succeeding.

“There are huge opportunities for the Shetland economy going forward and we want to be part of that. Shetland is one of the most prosperous parts of the Highlands and Islands. It has a strong export base and its role in supporting the oil and gas industry, along with renewables, aquaculture, tourism and more have seen it thrive. Home ownership and employment are both high and it has a growing population requiring personal legal services.”

The West of Shetland offshore oil and gas discoveries, allied to its renewable energy potential have resulted in a thriving energy industry including some massive projects both on and offshore. The support and supply chain is also thriving, with a long-term role in North Sea decommissioning expected, while Lerwick Harbour, literally the UK’s top port, is a hive of activity.

The move into Shetland comes shortly after Harper Macleod announced the addition of five new Partners among 10 recruits to its Edinburgh office following the administration of rival law firm McClure Naismith. Together, the moves represent growth of around 10% overall for the firm, while its overall headcount is now approaching 400.