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Scotland’s economy grew at a slow pace in 2017, with its annual GDP growing by 0.8% (compared with a growth rate of 0.2% in 2016). Although its growth rate picked up, it still remains below longer-term trends. In addition, the economy lags behind the UK as a whole, which had a growth rate of 1.8% in 2017. A decline in construction output has been a factor behind Scotland’s sluggish performance, as has flat growth in the service sector.

Notwithstanding challenging conditions, independent forecasts suggest that the Scottish economy will continue to grow throughout 2018, albeit at a modest rate. Although this will partly be attributable to strong global growth generally, there are other recent trends which point to the resilience of the domestic economy. In Aberdeen, economic sentiment in the oil and gas sector has improved (both in the production and supply chain sectors), as oil prices have steadily picked up. Concerns over a second independence referendum and Brexit did not have a major impact on investment activity in Scotland in 2017. In the Central Belt, real estate investments continued apace, with currency fluctuations making the market for real estate assets attractive to foreign investors. Corporate deal activity was also strong, particularly in sectors such as food and drink, technology and renewable energy. The longer-term challenge, however, will be to accelerate growth. The Scottish Fiscal Commission has predicted that the Scottish economy will grow at less than 1% per year until 2022.

The legal market in Scotland is as competitive as ever, representing an interesting mix of indigenous Scottish firms and London-headquartered/international firms. Addleshaw Goddard  entered the market by merging with HBJ Gateley in June 2017, a development which was more recently followed by Dentons formalising its combination with Maclay Murray & Spens LLP in October of that year. Pinsent Masons LLP  and CMS have taken a significant share of the market since their respective mergers with McGrigors (in 2012) and Dundas & Wilson (in 2014). CMS also merged with Nabarro and Olswang in May 2017, becoming the sixth largest law firm globally by headcount. Another London-based firm Bond Dickinson LLP, which opened an office in Edinburgh in Feb 2017, entered into a transatlantic merger nine months later with US firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice (the combined entity is now known as Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP ). DLA Piper Scotland LLP  and DWF also have a presence in Scotland.

At Burness Paull LLP , chairman Philip Rodney and managing partner Ian Wattie stepped down, and were succeeded by Peter Lawson and Tamar Tammes respectively in August 2018. There has also been a notable management change at Brodies LLP , with Nick Scott taking over from Bill Drummond as managing partner. In addition, Neil Kennedy has become the managing partner at MacRoberts LLP , following the end of John Macmillan’s second term in the role. Macmillan continues as an employment partner. The firm has grown its family team and, in a separate development, expanded its debt recovery offering by acquiring specialist debt recovery firm Yuill & Kyle . Another major player in the market is Shepherd and Wedderburn , whose operations in Scotland are complemented by it having a London base. Harper Macleod LLP  is well-spread nationally, with offices in the Central Belt and the Highlands and Islands. Morton Fraser  is another well-known firm, and generates strong client feedback. Turcan Connell  has an excellent private client offering. Outside of the Central Belt, Aberdein Considine , Ledingham Chalmers LLP ,Stronachs LLP  and Thorntons Law LLP  are all highly regarded.

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