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The Legal 500 Hall of Fame Icon The Legal 500 Hall of Fame highlights individuals who have received constant praise by their clients for continued excellence. The Hall of Fame highlights, to clients, the law firm partners who are at the pinnacle of the profession. In the United Kingdon, the criteria for entry is to have been recognised by The Legal 500 as one of the elite leading lawyers for eight years. These partners are highlighted below and throughout the editorial.
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United Kingdom > Scotland > Private client > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings



Agriculture and estates

Index of tables

  1. Agriculture and estates
  2. Leading individuals: Hall of Fame
  3. Leading individuals
  4. Rising stars

Leading individuals: Hall of Fame

  1. 1

Anderson Strathern advises land owners and private individuals on a wide range of transactions, including sales, transfers, leases and access arrangements, often for projects relating to the development of wind farms. The practice also acts for lenders, including a number of major banks, seeking to acquire large land portfolios, and was reappointed to Crown Estate Scotland's panel during 2018. Practice head John Mitchell, an accredited specialist in agricultural law, handles all types of rural property transactions and provides regular advice to landlords and tenants on agricultural tenancies.

Practice head(s):John Mitchell

Key Clients

The Buccleuch Estates Limited

Crown Estate Scotland

Roxburghe Estates

The National Trust for Scotland

The Mount Stuart Trust/Dumfries Estate

Penicuik Estate Partnership

Castle Milk and Corrie Estates

Errol Estate

Aberchalder Estate

Carnbroe Estate

Elgin Energy Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised on strategic review of a portfolio of 1991 Act tenancies to Limited Partnerships for leading Scottish landowner Buccleuch.
  • Advised on Buccleuch's sale of a mixed portfolio of farms and rural property assets following a strategic review.
  • Advised Elgin Energy Limited on negotiation of option for lease for developer of first solar project in excess of 50MW to be consented in Scotland.
  • Advised Roxburghe Estate on the sale of a significant country hotel and golf course located in the Scottish Borders.
  • Advised Castle Milk and Corrie Estates on Access Arrangements for a multi-site windfarm development.

Brodies LLP's team of 'industry leaders' represents rural landed estates, farming and rural businesses, lenders, developers and public sector organisations on both sides of large land transactions, while also handling contentious matters such as disputes between tenants and land owners and the defence of compulsory orders to give up land. Clive Phillips has particular experience with windfarm options, leases and joint venture arrangements, areas in which he acts for both domestic and international clients. Odell Milne  advises clients including large farming businesses and poultry producers on development options, clean energy schemes, sales, acquisitions and commercial projects.

Practice head(s):Clive Philips

Other key lawyers:Odell Milne


"The team's technical knowledge across what is a broad sector can only be described as consistently impressive. What is equally impressive is the team's ability to apply that knowledge practically and commercially."

"The firm offers approachable and knowledgeable local solicitors with practical experience of landowner and occupier issues." 

"There is real depth in the team at Brodies and it works seamlessly with colleagues in other departments. The level of professionalism and commercial judgement are first class."

"Clive Phillips has an excellent understanding of the market and regularly provides insight into current topics."

Key Clients

Gladstone Family

Innes Estates/Innes Trading Company

Bagger-Sorensen Group

FRP Advisory

Glen Tanar Estate

Savock Biogas

Dallas Estate

Seafield & Reidhaven Estates

Dunecht Estates

2 Sisters Ltd

Farmcare Ltd

Scottish Woodlands

Marine Harvest/ Cooke Aquaculture

Scottish Land & Estates

Dalnaspidal Estates Limited

Boralex Europe Sarl


Work highlights

  • Advised ERG, a leading wind energy operator in Italy, on the real estate due diligence for its acquisition of a 100% equity interest in Creag Riabhach Wind Farm Ltd.

Gillespie Macandrew LLP regular acts on both sides of major land transactions which include aspects such as access disputes, contentious employment issues and disputes over the value of land. The practice, which is led by Robert Scott-Dempster, is also notable for the advisory service it provides the Land Commission in terms of regulating the relationship between landlords and farm tenants. Associate Viktoria Wahle advises on security transactions for relating to rural property and also acts for landowners and developers on renewable energy developments.

Practice head(s):Robert Scott-Dempster

Other key lawyers:Viktoria Wahle

Work highlights

  • Advised on sale of a privately owned island extending to 2,500 hectares to a community body in terms of Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.

Shepherd and Wedderburn acts for large rural clients in Scotland, as well as private individuals and private companies, on the sale and purchase of high value estates and agricultural land, in contentious leasing matters and in family farming partnership splits involving the distribution of assets. Head or rural property Hamish Lean advises clients on the formation, structure and winding up of agricultural businesses and renewable energy projects, while recent recruit Jacqueline Moore advises rural clients on naturalization issues and their ability to hire European workers in the context of the UK’s impending departure from the EU.

Practice head(s):Peter Misselbrook

Other key lawyers:Jacqueline Moore; Hamish Lean

Key Clients

Invercauld Estate

Eskdalemuir Forestry Limited

The Woodland Trust

Lothian Estates

Clan Donald Lands Trust

Landmark Trust

Duke of Westminster Trustees

Royal Highland & Agricultural Society of Scotland

Electricity Supply Nominees (Forestry) Limited

Sutherland Estates

Mr Tom Greenhill

Fleming Farmers

Mr Henry Irvine-Fortescue

The Firm of Malcolm GD Morrison

Raymond and Rosaline Sharp

Mr James Bruce

Turcan Connell receives a high volume of instructions from land owners selling mixed estates comprising agricultural, residential and commercial assets, involving factors such as the transfer of entitlements and access rights. On the purchaser side, the team acts for high net worth individuals and investment funds looking to expand their portfolio. The firm has further expertise advising farmers and estate owners on the development of clean energy initiatives, including biomass schemes, onshore wind and solar PV. Jon Robertson’s broad caseload includes estate sales and purchases, agricultural tenancies and work for renewables clients.

Practice head(s):Jon Robertson


'One can have complete confidence that the Turcan Connell team are totally up to speed with both current and proposed legislation.'

'Jon Robertson and Louise Johnstone play an essential part in complex agricultural tenancy matters.'

'Other law firms have large teams of property professionals with a good working knowledge of rural property matters, but the private client agriculture and estates practice of Turcan Connell is unique for its large team of true experts in this oft misunderstood, specialist, field.'

'Manner, tone, and quality of service are much more important than the individual - something often forgotten in the professional services sector. The Turcan Connell team don't forget.'

Work highlights

  • Represented client in complex multi-lot estate sale.
  • Advising major agri-businesses in £20m anaerobic digestion 'gas to grid' project.
  • Advised on sale of large rural estate with title and RHI complications.
  • Advised on multiple forestry acquisitions for forestry investment fund with substantial war-chest.

Blackadders LLP represents estates, family partnerships and major lenders on land acquisitions and sales, renewable energy projects, succession planning and inheritance tax matters, as well as complex leasing and subleasing matters. Rural land and business head Petra Grunenberg’s broad expertise includes option agreements and development sales, agricultural tenancies and partnership agreements. Recently promoted partner Ellen Eunson is a key contact for land transactions, while Gail Clarke focuses on forestry and renewables.

Practice head(s):Petra Grunenberg

Other key lawyers:Ellen Eunson; Gail Clarke

Harper Macleod LLP’s team advises land owners, high net worth individuals and public sector bodies on land transactions, including the sale and purchase of crofting estates and crofts, while the firm also has particular expertise in the forestry sector, serving as sole legal advisor to the Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS). Rural head Graeme Nisbet handles acquisitions, disposals and leases for the FLS as well as farm and estate purchases for a range of other clients. Calum Macleod  is an expert in crofting law and Land Reform and Community Ownership: he advises clients on renewable energy developments on croftland, and acts for a large number of community owned estates.

Practice head(s):Graeme Nisbet

Other key lawyers:Calum Macleod


'Graeme Nisbet provides a valuable role on client liaison and work priority management, as well as advising on cases.'

The firm's partners and associates all provide an excellent service on individual cases and the customer satisfaction feedback across our organisation has been very positive.'

'Calum Macleod has excellent sector knowledge and attention to detail in all matters.'


Key Clients

The Firm of RM Clark

Veitch & Sons solicitors

Matthew Thomson

Catherine Kirk

Accountant in Bankruptcy

Woodland Creation UK

Craignathro Eggs Limited

Marion Ballantyne

Sheila Snowie

Historic Environment Scotland

James Bigham

Scottish Environment Protection Agency

Melness Crofters Estate

Ceannacroc Estate

Scaniport Estate

Keose Glebe Estate Trust Limited

Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS)

Work highlights

  • Advised on the £3.86m purchase of 6 and 7 Lochend, Barrock, a farm in Caithness which comprised two large owner-occupied crofts.
  • Advised on the £950,000 sale of Balnamoon Farm, a large mixed arable and livestock farm in Banff.
  • Advised on the £550,000 sale of The Burns Farm, Creetown for a farmer's wife looking to divest herself from the family farm but retain a clawback for any future renewables development.
  • Advising and representing the Firm of Ythanbank Land Management on a continuing dispute on the validity of an agricultural tenancy in Ellon.
  • Acted for Garbh Allt Community, an eligible community under the Land Reform Act, in the purchase of West Helmsdale Estate, a crofting estate in Sutherland which comprises three crofting townships with three crofting common grazings.

Ledingham Chalmers LLP's 'collaborative and well connected' practice has particular expertise acting for clients in land transactions in the farming sector, where the team acts on both on the seller and buyer side of deals and has notable skill negotiating clawback agreements and clarifying titles to land in complex transactions. On the lender side, the team acts in commercial security transactions concerning agricultural land. Partner Jim Drysdale, an accredited specialist in agricultural law, has a strong knowledge of crofting and environmental law and carries out mediation for family businesses in disputes arising from the division of company shares.

Practice head(s):Hazel Moir; Linda Tinson

Other key lawyers:Jim Dysdale


"The team have a breadth of experience and knowledge of their legal area but are willing to think out of the box." 

"Linda Tinson, Jim Drysdale and Catherine Bury are all standout individuals." 

"Linda Tinson is solution-orientated and typically has already researched a solution before presenting a problem." 

"Linda Tinson and Jim Drysdale both make a point of keeping abreast of current legislation and both have a very good understanding of all aspects of agriculture."

Thorntons Law LLP's 'technically astute' team advises land owners and lenders such as major banks on a range of complex acquisitions and other matters, including agricultural tenancies, purchase and sale of properties, renewables projects and succession planning. Land and rural business head Kenneth Mackay leads the team, working with partners across Perth, Forfar and Cupar. Associate Neil Darling joined the team from Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP in early 2019, bringing his experience of advising on forestry acquisitions and sales throughout the UK. Former partner Linsey Barclay-Smith left to join Morton Fraser in late 2018.

Practice head(s):Kenneth Mackay

Other key lawyers:Neil Darling


"Thorntons have an excellent team of lawyers who we instruct to deal with property matters on our behalf. The whole team are extremely knowledgeable in their field, they are personable and they present in a way that is easy to understand when dealing with often complex structures/purchases."

Key Clients

Scottish and Southern Energy

Scottish Water

Work highlights

  • Advised on the purchase of a significant sporting estate for the now largest landowner in Scotland.
  • Provided legal advice for complex security structure to assist farming family acquisition of new farm supported by guarantees against borrowings on existing farmland assets.

Davidson Chalmers Stewart advises land owners, public sector bodies and family partnerships on a wide range of matters, including lease agreements,  joint ventures and large land transactions and corporate sales in the renewables sector. The practice has recently been representing a number of tenant farmers in a judicial review against the Scottish government regarding new legislation impacting property rights in farming partnerships. During 2018 Louise Jones was promoted to the role of director of rural business, while  Laura Irvine joined as partner from BTO Solicitors LLP  in 2018.

Practice head(s):Louise Jones

Other key lawyers:Laura Irvine


"There is a closely knit team working at Davidson Chalmers so you are guaranteed a good breadth of experience and a team effort to get the job done." 

"Davidson Chalmers provides an effective personal service which is thorough but pragmatic."

"Louise Jones is thorough, determined and exacting."

Key Clients

R J McMaster (Lead Petitioner in Group of Tenant Farmers)

Dunrobin Highland Distillery Limited

RT Overseas Settlement

Tartan Leisure Limited

Ury Estate Limited (part of FM Group)

Albrighton Roses Limited

The English Benedictine Congregation

Highlands of Scotland Sporting Estates Partnership

Ark Hill Wind Farm Limited

Hudson Hirsel LLP

Work highlights

  • Acting for a number of tenant farmers in a significant and high profile judicial review which, ultimately, seeks compensation from the Scottish Government following introduction of legislation affecting property rights in farming partnerships.
  • Advising Dunrobin Highland Distillery Limited on the development of a craft malt whisky and gin distillery and visitor centre in the former Dunrobin Castle powerhouse.
  • Acting for RT Overseas Settlement in connection with the creation of a new settlement of circa 900 units on the western edge of Inverness.
  • Advised on the corporate sale of a renewable energy company, following an auction process, at a total price of £17m.
  • Advising Ury Estate in Aberdeenshire regarding a dispute with BP Exploration Operating Company, former owners of the Forties pipeline, which runs over Ury Estate.

Lindsays' agriculture and estates team is run by Michael Yellowlees, who acts for a number of large landed estates and is frequently involved in the sale of farmland and forestry, in addition to the purchase of agricultural and residential land. In the renewables sector, the team has been working with developers and landowners on a major electricity project, and acting for a clean energy company in negotiations with landowners regarding rights for access and services. Yellowlees has a niche in feudal dignities - an area in which he is described as 'the leading lawyer in this field of practice'.

Practice head(s):Michael Yellowlees


"A very responsive team with good turn around times who provided us with high quality advice on a complex matter."

"This is the world's leading practice with respect to the sale and acquisition of legitimate Scottish baronial titles, as well as with respect to the representation of Scottish barons generally. Michael Yellowlees is simply the leading lawyer in this field of practice."

Key Clients

His Grace, Torquhil Campbell, 13th Duke of Argyll, Chief of Clan Campbell, Argyll Estates

Professor George Everly, eminent American psychologist

William Astor, 4th Viscount Astor, Tarbert Estate

Donald Cameron of Lochiel, Lord of Lochaber, Chief of the Clan Cameron, Achnacarry and Lochiel Estates

Alan MacKay, Earl of Breadalbane

Alex Howard, 5th Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal, Colonsay Estate

Robin Maclean of Ardgour, 18th Laird and Chief of Clan Maclean, Ardgour Estate

The Christie Family, Lochdochart Estate, Crianlarich, Perthshire

Fothringham Estate Company Limited, Fothringham Estate

Thomas Steuart Forthringham, Baron Murthly, Murthly and Strathbraan Estates

Community Wind Power Limited/Community Wein Energy Limited

Scottish Water

The Pairc Trust, community body, Isle of Lewis

Lord Godfrey Macdonald of Macdonald, Chief of Clan Macdonald

Work highlights

  • Advising American and Canadian clients about issues relating to the uniquely Scottish concepts of feudal dignities and Clan Law.
  • Acting for executors in the sale of a prime quality arable farm close to the English border.
  • Acted for landowners who sold a farm in 2016 at which time a dispute was ongoing with the owners of the neighbouring cottages regarding the private water supply.
  • Acted on behalf of Argyll Estates in the transfer of two harbours on the Isle of Tiree to a community body.

Morton Fraser advises major public sector clients on renewable energy projects, predominantly involving the development of wind farms, and regularly represents lenders and high net worth individuals in leasing arrangements pertaining to estates and land development. The team has further expertise acting for landlords in the contested termination of agricultural leases, and representing farming partnerships in the sale of assets and the winding up of estates. Accredited specialist James Rust heads up the team, handling transactional work, agricultural and crofting tenancies and land management issues. New partner Linsey Barclay-Smith joined the team from Thorntons Law LLP in late 2018

Practice head(s):James Rust

Other key lawyers:Linsey Barclay-Smith

Key Clients

Scottish Wildlife Trust

C G Grieg Limited

Balmoral Estates

Newbie Salmon Fisheries (Property) Limited

Scottish Natural Heritage

John Lynch (Builders) Limited

James Christie & Sons

The Scottish Ministers

Arqiva Limited

Yorsipp Trustees Limited

Ministry of Defence

Barclays Bank plc

Charities and not-for-profit

Index of tables

  1. Charities and not-for-profit
  2. Leading individuals
  3. Rising stars

Rising stars

  1. 1

Brodies LLP's charities practice acts for private trusts, grant-giving bodies, social enterprises and corporate structures looking to invest in the third sector. As the sole legal adviser to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR), the team is frequently instructed to advise charities on compliance issues and help new bodies set up Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisations (SCIOs). The firm also provides exclusive advice to a range of large trusts and grant-giving bodies on a range of matters including GDPR, tax and development for charitable purposes. Practice head Alan Eccles is regarded as 'one of the leading advisers in the sector'.

Practice head(s):Alan Eccles; Brenda Scott


'Within the parameters of the work we asked of them (setting up two SCIOs, advising on the content of the constitutions of the SCIOs, advising lay people on the duties of charity trustees, and obtaining the opinion above referred to),  a strong performance with no discernible weaknesses.'

'Alan Eccles is recognised as one of the leading advisers in the Scottish charities sector.'

Key Clients

Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator

Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Royal Incorporation of Hutchesons’ Hospital in the City of Glasgow

Cattanach Trust

Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice

LAR Housing Trust

Macmillan Cancer Support

Little Sisters of the Poor

John Mather Trust

Malaria No More UK

Work highlights

  • Sole legal advisor for the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, Scotland’s charity regulator, providing recent advice concerning the interpretation of the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 and providing training to OSCR on the responsibilities of charity trustees in relation to safeguarding.
  • Hired (on recommendation from Glasgow City Council’s head of legal) to provide bespoke, specialist and unusual advice and assistance to the Royal Incorporation of Hutcheson's Hospital in the City of Glasgow to promote an Act of Parliament that will allow the charity to transfer its assets to a new SCIO.
  • Appointed as sole legal advisers to Cattanach Charitable Trust, one of the largest Scottish grant-making charities, giving advice that has so far included GDPR management and implementing a memorandum of understanding to govern the relationship between trustees and the charity.
  • Appointed as sole legal advisors to act on behalf of LAR Housing Trust for the acquisition of existing developments and to assist with the acquisition of sites for new developments.

Burness Paull LLP acts for major charities, grant-giving bodies and development trusts, providing advice concerning governance issues, investments, employment disputes, joint ventures and compliance. The team also frequently acts in the formation of new charitable bodies, and handles complex restructuring matters, including the winding up of charitable bodies and the transfer of staff from one company to another. The 'approachable and innovative' Stephen Phillips, who holds the position of the Convener of the Charity law sub-committee of the Law Society of Scotland, has notable expertise with corporate legal structures and proved instrumental in developing the constitutional model behind the SCIO charity structure.

Practice head(s):Stephen Phillips


'Burness Paull has provided many hours of valuable help on issues of charity law and governance.'

'The team, led by Stephen Phillips, are all approachable and willing to help. Stephen provides an innovative and creative approach to issues, and Gillian Harkness has been a thought provoking speaker at our events.'

'Emma Maxwell and Rhona McAdam provide thoughtful and considered advice in an easy to understand way.'

Key Clients

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

Glasgow Life

Development Trusts Association Scotland

St Andrew’s Ambulance Association

Epilepsy Scotland

Action for Children

Thistle Foundation

Standard Life Foundation


Bates Wells & Braithwaite London LLP

Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow

Archway (Respite Care and Housing) Limited

Sustrans Limited

Airdrie Citizens Advice Bureau

Victim Support Scotland

Work highlights

  • Advised the Scottish Football Association on its formation of a single national governing body for para-football in Scotland, leading to the decision to apply for a Scottish Charity Incorporated Association structure which was approved by the OSCR in 2018.
  • Advising the Hub Community Foundation in relation to its investment in a series of project and drafting agreements with third parties to which HCF assigns interest.
  • Advised Voluntary Service Aberdeen on the conclusion of a conditional contract for disposal of part of their site at Kings Gate, Aberdeen and subsequently assisting them with the transfer of affordable housing obligations to a new purpose built living accommodation site elsewhere in Aberdeen.
  • Advised Scottish Power Energy Networks on the establishment of the Green Economy Fund, to support initiatives that will support Scotland’s ambitious green energy plans and local economic growth.
  • Advising Victim Support Scotland on a full-scale governance review and giving advice on the conversion of the charity to a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation.

Gillespie Macandrew LLP works with trusts and charities on SCIO incorporation, restructuring matters such as mergers and staff transfers, investments, governance and contentious matters such as disputes with the OSCR. The team has notable strength in the land and rural sector and a reputation for giving highly detailed and tailored advice to clients across the board. Practice head Lianne Lodge, who sits on the Law Society of Scotland Charity Law sub-committee, is well-known for helping philanthropists establish charities in Scotland. Corporate head Chris Smith, has a specialism in advising charities on corporate matters.

Practice head(s):Lianne Lodge

Other key lawyers:Chris Smith

Key Clients

Johnson & Johnston Corporate Citizenship Trust

Poppy Scotland

Weir Charitable Trust

North Berwick Trust

Royal College of Physicians

Royal Regiment of Scotland

Work highlights

  • Advising Poppy Scotland in relation to their legal needs, including protecting the intellectual property of the Scottish (four petal) poppy, dealing with rental agreements with the Ministry of Defence and all other employment and contract issues.
  • Advising North Berwick Trust on incorporating and the transition to North Berwick Trust Ltd.
  • Advising Tor Christian Nursing Home following its closure in order to repurpose the charity as a very different type of organisation, focusing on grant giving in order to fulfil its charitable purposes.
  • Handling all administration matters for Erskine of Torrie Institution, including the transfer of a loan from National Galleries of Scotland to Historic Environment Scotland.

Turcan Connell's 'calm and pragmatic' team advises charities, philanthropists and grant-giving bodies on governance and audits, OSCR and GDPR compliance, the establishment of new charitable bodies and changes to the structure of trusts, with a particular focus on education, heritage and arts and culture. 'Reassuring and informed' practice head Gavin McEwan recently took forward the first-ever charity appeal to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland. Newly promoted associate Debbie McIlwraith Cameron has notable expertise with data protection, training charitable clients including the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh on the impact of GDPR.

Practice head(s):Simon Mackintosh; Gavin McEwan

Other key lawyers:Debbie McIlwraith Cameron


'Turcan Connell's experience of advising charities is what makes them really special. They understand the issues we are facing, and can make very practical suggestions based on their work with so many similar organisations.'

'The team have a good understanding of the charity sector and are very open and welcoming and well connected in the sector. They are held in high regard and well respected in their field. '

'Gavin McEwan is the finest lawyer I've ever worked with. Rather than waiting for problems to arise, he anticipates them, and has solutions to suggest immediately.'

'Debbie McIllraith Cameron is a knowledgeable friend to the sector who helps open doors, build confidence and is a role model to other young women in her field and beyond.'

Key Clients

New Lanark

Artists Collective

Royal British Legion Scotland

Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh

Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust

Royal Scottish Academy / RSA Foundation

National Trust for Scotland

Royal Caledonian Education Trust

Shetland Charitable Trust Patrons of Spittal’s Hospital

Work highlights

  • Represented New Lanark in the first charity appeal ever to be taken to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland, General Regulatory Chamber.
  • Advised Artists Collective on the governance and commercial property aspects of the creation of a new public gallery space in Edinburgh.
  • Providing advice to the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh on governance and constitutional issues, disputes around recognition of members and fellows, and the charity law aspects of the refinancing of a hotel project carried out by the client.  
  • Advised the Royal Caledonian Education Trust on a revision of an Act of Parliament and the creation of new governance arrangements.

Anderson Strathern's practice acts for a broad range of clients including SCIOs, grant-giving bodies, housing associations, arm's length organisations, international charities and regulatory bodies. The team possesses a wealth of experience setting up trusts and charities and modernising the structures of charitable vehicles, and has recently handled a number of high-profile safeguarding matters for clients facing public scrutiny. Practice head Victoria Simpson leads on constitutional and governance mandates, such as charitable mergers and acquisitions, reorganisation of trust deeds and compliance with OSCR guidelines.

Practice head(s):Victoria Simpson


'Anderson Strathern is a highly professional multi specialist legal firm but still retains the ability to engage clients on a one-to-one basis.'

'Victoria Simpson's knowledge of charity legislation is first class.'

Key Clients

Archdiocese of Edinburgh and St Andrews

Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

Glasgow Caledonian University

Sailors’ Society

Fettes College

YMCA Scotland

R S Macdonald Trust

Live Borders

The National Trust for Scotland

Abbotsford Trust

Work highlights

  • Advised Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority on setting up an important SCIO to work with other local bodies in order to enhance and improve the local area, amenities and tourist attractions.
  • Setting up and acting for a significant family charitable trust that will hold a substantial portfolio.
  • Worked with The Royal College of Nursing Charitable Foundation’s English solicitors Bates Wells Braithwaite to achieve a Charity Commission Scheme that allowed for the merger of some restricted funds and also to widen the charitable purposes of the foundation in order to make use of these funds.
  • Advised one of the largest grant giving trusts in the UK on the reorganisation of its trust deed and other ongoing advice.

BTO Solicitors LLP's 'exceptional' practice is regularly instructed by clients who wish to gain SCIO status and handles a large volume of matters for charitable registered social landlords, advising them on all aspects of their business, including employment disputes, lease arrangements and site licenses. The team shows further expertise handling employment tribunal claims on behalf of employers, such as West Lothian College, and advising a range of clients on GDPR compliance. The 'very experienced' Marion Davis takes the lead with most clients and brings a wealth of knowledge to the team in terms of SCIO compliance and constitutional matters, thanks to her OSCR secondment.

Practice head(s):Patrice Fabien; Marion Davis

Other key lawyers:Marion Davis


'Very good knowledge of charities and associated corporate and business law.' 

'BTO's professionalism, knowledge and reputation as a sector leader is exceptional, as well as the support they provide to you on a practical level.'

'An outstanding legal practice.'

'Marion Davis is the key person in the charities practice. She is very experienced and ready to find solutions.'

Key Clients

Royal National Lifeboat Institute

Whistleblowing International Network

Students’ Association of the University of the West of Scotland

University of Strathclyde Students’ Association

The Citizens Theatre

Argyll Community Housing Association Limited

CLIC Sargent Cancer Care for Children

Epilepsy Action Scotland

Thistle Housing Association Limited

The Richmond Fellowship Scotland

Hillhead Housing Association 2000

Greenock Arts Guild Limited

East Ayrshire Carers Centre

The Scottish Cremation Society Limited

Clyde Valley Housing Association Ltd

Southside Housing Association Ltd

Cathcart and District Housing Association Limited

Partick Housing Association Limited

Craigdale Housing Association Limited

McSence Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised on constitutional options and assisted to incorporate and achieve charity registration for the Whistleblowing International Network.
  • Assisting the Student’s Association of the University of the West of Scotland to move from its current unincorporated association form to a company limited by guarantee.
  • Advising The Architectural Heritage Fund in connection with funding arrangements for various charities.
  • Advised on the setting up of two separate charities - both supporting arts, culture and heritage, but operating in different locations with different focuses; achieving registration for the first, with work continuing on the second.

Lindsays handles the full range of constitutional and governance matters for charities, from SCIO incorporation to OSCR compliance, in addition to a significant volume of mandates concerning mergers, restructurings and contentious employment matters. David Dunsire, who joined from Shepherd and Wedderburn in 2018, has added a wealth of knowledge on corporate structures and contractual matters to the team. Alastair Keatinge - 'one of the most prominent figures in the charity legal sector' - is described as 'the ideal charity lawyer: sound, conscientious, reliable and a pleasure to deal with.'

Practice head(s):Alastair Keatinge

Other key lawyers:David Dunsire


'The Lindsays team are committed to the charities sector in Scotland. They are a recognised specialist in the provision of legal services to the sector.'

'Alastair Keatinge not only knows the legislation inside out but is able to give practical advice as to how the Scottish charity regulator interprets it.'

'A good all-round traditional practice of the best sort: professional, skilled and with a wide range of experience, businesslike but not over-commercial. All-importantly, the firm puts the interests of its clients first.'

'Alastair Keatinge has a vast knowledge of the sector. He has good networks that keep him informed of the most up to date information.'

'Alastair Keatinge is one of the most prominent figures in the charity legal sector.'

'Alastair Keatinge is the ideal charity lawyer: sound, conscientious, reliable and a pleasure to deal with.'


Key Clients

St Columba’s Hospice

Carnegie UK Trust

Crossroads Caring Scotland

Edinburgh University Students’ Association

The Aberdeen Islamic Charitable Trust

Lyme Disease GNHCT Scotland

The Clark Foundation for Legal Education

Scottish Documentary Institute

The Albion Trust

Bank of Scotland Foundation

Social Bite

Big Hearted Scotland

Work highlights

  • Restructuring of the Scottish Documentary Institute in order to allow new sources of funding to be targeted.
  • Setting up a new charity and transferring the SNU Trust's assets into a new SCIO, whilst ensuring the charity is registered as a cross-border charity with the Office of the Scottish Regulator.
  • Establishing a new charity in Scotland on behalf of Lyme Disease GNHCT to increase its capacity to carry projects and raise the requisite funds.
  • Provided full contractual advice, governance and training to an independent provider of specialist palliative care in Scotland, located in a new £26m hospice building in Edinburgh.

MacRoberts LLP acts for a wide range of clients, including international charities, social enterprises, trusts and SCIOs, primarily advising on regulatory matters such as data protection, safeguarding and equal pay obligations. The team has further expertise with all contract related matters, and also regularly carries out data audits for clients. Practice head Valerie Surgenor is noted for her expertise advising charities on fundraising procedures and requirements and works regularly with the UK Fundraising Regulator. Senior solicitor Jozanne Bainbridge has extensive regulatory auditing and reporting experience and expertise in the area of governance.

Practice head(s):Valerie Surgenor

Other key lawyers:Jozanne Bainbridge


'The practice offers practical and pragmatic advice.'

'Valerie Surgenor is understated but hugely competent, knowledgeable, and pragmatic.'

Key Clients

Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

Leeds Cares

Community Enterprise in Scotland / Social Enterprise World Forum

Coalition of Care Providers Scotland (CCPS)/ Social Work Scotland

Citizens Theatre

People’s Postcode Lottery

Scottish Opera


Dundee Blind & Partially Sighted Society

Forth Valley College

Work highlights

  • Carried out a full data protection audit for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, including data mapping and reporting of GDPR compliance.
  • Advised Community Enterprise in Scotland on corporate structural matters, commercial contracts and IP matters relating to the Social Enterprise World Forum in Edinburgh.
  • Provided People's Postcode Trusts with advice on appointment, services and trade mark agreements and training in the areas of governance and GDPR.
  • Provided advice to the Dundee Blind & Partially Sighted Society arising as a result of a significant pension scheme liability, stemming from the client's participation in the Tayside Pension fund within the Local Government Pension Scheme.

Shepherd and Wedderburn advises major universities, charity trustees and public sector clients on a range of constitutional and governance related matters, including establishing new charities, revising trust structures, safeguarding issues and employment disputes. The team has particular strength in the higher education sector. Dual-qualified accredited specialist Chris McGill advises a diverse range of clients on governance and tax matters.

Practice head(s):Malcolm Rust

Other key lawyers:Chris McGill

Key Clients

Chaffinch Trust

The Royal Company of Merchants of the City of Edinburgh

University of Edinburgh

University of Glasgow

University of Aberdeen

The Trustees of the Children’s Heart Disease Trust

Work highlights

  • Advised The Royal Company of Merchants of the City of Edinburgh on the incorporation of eight trusts into a recipient charitable trust with wider purposes and a new constitution.
  • Advised The Chaffinch Trust on the establishment of a new and innovative charity aimed at ensuring greater co-operation and engagement in the operation of projects worldwide to support and encourage those disadvantaged because of poverty and lack of opportunity.
  • Advising the University of Edinburgh on its international operations and on senior appointments, including securing entry into the US for a UK national taking on a new regional director role in New York.
  • Providing full service legal service to multiple associated trusts, including governance, employment and tax advice.
  • Advising a major charity on proposals to redevelop its headquarters in Edinburgh.

Balfour+Manson LLP 's team, which is led by Alan Gilfillan, an accredited expert in charity law, focuses primarily on advising religious institutions on a range of contentious and non-contentious matters including reincorporation, disciplinary procedures and data protection. The team also regularly provide charities with advice on safeguarding issues and GDPR compliance, as well as acting for individuals or bodies seeking to gain SCIO incorporation. Gilfillan previously spent time as a secondee at the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, adding to his knowledge of SCIO compliance.

Practice head(s):Alan Gilfillan

Harper Macleod LLP's 'knowledgeable and responsive' team represents the interests of registered social landlords, often in major transactions for development purposes, and assists charities and trusts with constitutional matters, SCIO applications, compliance with OSCR regulations and governance reviews. Derek Hogg has substantial experience of advising charitable registered social landlords, while James McMorrow provides data protection advice to charities in light of GDPR.

Practice head(s):Derek Hogg; James McMorrow


'For the past 13 years Harper Macleod has provided pro bono representation and support to families with autistic children facing education tribunals. Recognising that a good education is crucial if autistic children are to grow and flourish, Harper Macleod have shared their expertise to ensure that autistic children in the UK are getting the best start in life.'

'Harper Macleod works hard to make sure that they can support the full range of client needs with regular visits from specialists to allow face-to-face contact and relationship building as well as delivering the work.'

Key Clients

retail TRUST

Kingdom Housing Association Limited

Cairn Housing Association Limited

National Autistic Society

Scottish Sports Futures

Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership

MCR Pathways

Shetland Arts Trust

Wheatley Housing Group Limited

Historic Environment Scotland

Work highlights

  • Acting for Kingdom Housing Association in a £85m private placement lending and security transaction, securing the development programme of over 1,100 homes.
  • Advising Cairn Housing Assocation on a £50m private placement lending and security transaction and advising on its constitutional partnership and preparations for GDPR.
  • Partnership with the National Autistic Society to provide free help, support and representation to families with autistic children to ensure they get the educational support they need and are entitled to.
  • Advising retailTRUST in relation to charity governance and data protection, in particular preparations for GDPR.
  • Providing corporate and commercial advice regarding contractual arrangements to MCR Pathways.

T C Young's practice represents charitable housing authorities, trusts and not-for-profit bodies, advising on constitutional updates and restructurings, while assisting with the process of setting up SCIOs, handling asset transfers and advising on OSCR compliances. The team focuses in particular on the social housing sector, with practice head Mark Ewing acting as the sole adviser to the Scottish Federation of Housing Association. Ewing also acts for clients in the renewable energy sector, especially those investing in wind farms.

Practice head(s):Mark Ewing


'The firm has a detailed knowledge and understanding of the social housing sector in Scotland and the wide range of legal, regulatory and good practice requirements that apply to the sector. The services and advice and assistance provided are of a consistently high standard.'

'One of Scotland's marker leaders in the charities/social housing sector.'

'Mark Ewing has a detailed knowledge and understanding of all aspects of charity law and associated regulatory requirements; an ability to clearly articulate, explain and clarify complex issues; and has a strong focus on and a positive approach to customer service.'

Key Clients

Antonine Housing Association

Arran Development Trust

Corstorphine Community Centre

Erskine Hospital

Grail Movement Association

Scottish Federation of Housing Associations

Scouts Scotland

Tiree Community Development Trust

Turning Point Scotland

Work highlights

  • Advising Erskine Hospital on a review and its implementation which involved significant changes to the charity’s board reporting structure, succession planning and board recruitment.
  • Assisted Corstorphine Public Hall Company Limited to put in place a charity restructure, firstly by converting their current set up to a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO), and thereafter transferring to another SCIO.
  • Sole legal adviser to the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations in the development of the model constitution for charitable housing associations in Scotland, developed in association with the Scottish Housing Regulator, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator and the Financial Conduct Authority.
  • Prepared a bespoke SCIO constitution for The Grail Movement so that the charity could register with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) in Scotland.
  • Instructed by Antonine Housing Association to take forward a transfer of engagements to Caledonia Housing Association that included a transfer of staff and OSCR consent to wind up the operations of the original charitable vehicle.

Contentious trusts and probate

Index of tables

  1. Contentious trusts and probate
  2. Leading individuals
  3. Next Generation Partners
  4. Rising stars

Rising stars

  1. 1

Brodies LLP's broad client range comprises executors, beneficiaries, administrators and trustees, as well as shareholders and solicitors. The team is notable for its expertise handling complex contentious matters, including legal rights claims, disputes arising from the death of family members intestate, and disagreements concerning inheritance tax between executors and beneficiaries. The dual-qualified Mark Stewart, who sits as Convenor of the Law Society of Scotland's panel for trust law, handles the full range of estate, succession and tax planning matters. Recently promoted partner Angela McCulloch has a niche in advising financial institutions on trust and executry disputes.

Practice head(s):Mark Stewart

Other key lawyers:Angela McCulloch


'Alan Barr provides excellent, clear and concise advice with a wide perspective.'

Work highlights

  • Represented husband in challenging will of his late wife.
  • Represented executors in defending a highly contentious legal rights claim.
  • Represented two beneficiaries in a highly contentious executry where assets were undervalued by the sole executor.

Gillespie Macandrew LLP's practice has a strong focus on advising family partnerships in the rural and land sector on complex legal rights claims and the duties and rights of liferents of such trusts. The practice is also known for its work on the interpretation of wills on behalf of beneficiaries, and handling complex tax issues concerning inheritance tax, agricultural property relief and business property relief. Eilidh G Adams has a niche handling estates with foreign elements, such as the application of the EU Succession Regulation, and advising on the impact of marriage and divorce on the revocation of foreign wills.

Practice head(s):Agnes Mallon

Other key lawyers:Elilidh Adams


'The Gillespie Macandrew team do everything in their power to ensure the success of mediation in these difficult and longstanding disputes, including thorough preparation, excellent accommodation and expert representation.' 

'Sarah-Jane MacDonald helps clients maximise the value of mediation. She ably demonstrates the key skills of mediation advocacy - selecting the mediators; preparing the parties; providing representation and expert advice on the mediation day; and excellent follow-up to ensure matters are fully resolved.'

'John Stirling always goes the extra mile to ensure we are well informed and adequately protected.'

'Alan White and Eilidh Adams are excellent in their commitment to get things done - they are honest without pushing for extra expensive routes.'

Morton Fraser's practice frequently represents executors in conflicts with other executors over their legal duties, and also acts for beneficiaries, individuals with Power of Attorney and trustees, often in matters where the clients are seeking to recover loans or entitlements owed to them. The firm has additional expertise proving the tenor of lost wills, and acting in unusual cross-jurisdictional matters including a trust variation case in the Court of Session. Private client head Sue Hunter, a qualified financial adviser, advises clients on the efficient structuring of business assets and acts for some of the firm's most significant commercial clients.

Practice head(s):Richard McMeeken; Sue Hunter

Work highlights

  • We are regularly instructed to raise court action to prove the tenor of Wills and other testamentary writings which have been lost.
  • We acted for our client in defending a Court of Session action for reduction of confirmation and to interdict him from acting as executor.
  • We were instructed by an executor to force his joint executor to progress the administration of his late father's estate.
  • We were instructed to recover a debt due to our clients from their late son's estate.
  • Acting for the executors and the beneficiary of an estate to recover loans made by the deceased and to defend an action raised against the executors for payment of sums purportedly due by the estate on termination of a lease.

Anderson Strathern 's 'well-organised and efficient' team frequently acts in contentious executry matters for beneficiaries pursuing or defending claims, and has additional expertise of seeking rectification of documents, such as wills and dispositions, on the basis that they were created under undue influence. Another area of specialism is the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000, an area in which a range of claims are handled for individuals and the Office of the Public Guardian. Solicitor-advocate Katrina Lumsdaine has a great track record in court and recently managed to secure the first rectification of a will since the Succession (Scotland) Act 2016.

Practice head(s):John Peutherer

Other key lawyers:Katrina Lumsdaine


'Anderson Strathern is, in my experience, among the best litigation firms in Scotland.'

'A good team; well drilled, with meticulous preparation.'

'Carole Tomlinson is calm, organised, pleasant, knows her own field very well and deploys the firm's other capabilities to good effect.'

'Liam Smith anticipates needs and delivers on time and has a good eye for detail.'

'Gary Burton is an impressive solicitor, possessing good analytical skills and being very well organised, efficient and approachable.'

Key Clients

Smith & Grant

Harper Robertson & Shannon

Masson & Glennie

Gray & Connachie

O’Donnell & Co

Office of the Public Guardian

Work highlights

  • Acting for the trustees of a high value family trust, seeking variation of the trust, in an action in the Court of Session.
  • Acting for the grandchildren of the deceased in respect of a claim for reduction of a will.
  • Successfully raised a petition in Edinburgh Sheriff Court on behalf of a client and two other individuals to have them appointed as trustees, following the death of all named trustees over several years.

Murray Beith Murray advises members of family trusts with vested business interests on complex disputes, as well as beneficiaries in a range of matters that includes entitlement to estates, succession planning, legal rights claims and challenges to wills based on alleged undue influence. The team also has a dedicated rural property group, which is now headed up by Andrew Linehan, who joined from Lindsays - where he also led the rural property team - in September 2019. Linehan works alongside senior partner Hugh Younger, who advised on land transactions totalling more than £15m in 2018. Both Carole Hope and Sandy Burnett have recently retired but continue to work with the firm as consultant solicitors.

Practice head(s):Andrew Paterson

Other key lawyers:Andrew Linehan; Hugh Younger


'Andrew Linehan always manages to provide first rate advice on the agricultural tenancy front, in a way that's concise and easy to understand. He's always reachable and you can depend on him to turn things round very quickly.'

Shepherd and Wedderburn represents executors, beneficiaries, trustees and high street banks, and has a clear focus on disputes concerning the administration of estates that arise between executors and beneficiaries. The practice, which is led by Christopher McGill, also has expertise handling legal rights claims, some of which include cross-border elements, interpreting and challenging wills, and resolving complex tax disputes, especially those concerning family businesses. Associate Stephanie Hepburn has a niche managing executry disputes relating to the inheritance of agricultural and crofting tenancies.

Practice head(s):Christopher McGill

Other key lawyers:Stephanie Hepburn

Work highlights

  • Representing a client in relation to a challenge to late mother’s will by brother.
  • Representing a client in relation to potential fraudulent intromissions with mother's estate by elder brother and executor, who made payments via mobile banking from the mother's estate during her lifetime.
  • Acting for the executors of an estate who claim that the deceased's financial attorneys used the funds of the deceased's estate for personal gain and the enrichment of their families.
  • Acting for the executor of an estate in negotiating the administration of concurrent family estates, complicated by the fact the beneficiaries of both estates disagree on factors including the calculation of legal rights, the nature of foreign joint property and survivorship destinations in the event of their passing.

Turcan Connell's team acts for executors, beneficiaries and trustees, handling disputes arising from payments or assets owed to clients, inheritance tax implications, alleged breach of contract and complex undue influence matters, including seeking reduction of a will on the basis of lack of capacity and forgery. 'Patient and  personable' practice head Peter Littlefield takes a 'common sense approach' to advising clients on tax and estate planning, including post-death tax planning, while associate Paul Forrester Smith specialises in contentious matters.

Practice head(s):Peter Littlefield; David Ogilvy

Other key lawyers:Paul Forrester Smith


"Peter Littlefield has a very common sense approach and is alive to reputational concerns. His approach achieves results with his opponents so that cases can be resolved quickly and without huge legal fees. "

"Peter Littlefield is superb. He removes all emotion from arguments, sticks to the facts, and is forceful when necessary. " 

'Turcan Connell is excellent at explaining the differences between Scottish law and England & Wales, the solicitors are very approachable and they provide excellent advice.'

'Peter Littlefield provides excellent legal advice - he is patient and very personable.'

Work highlights

  • Pursued a claim for the residuary beneficiary of an estate for loss relief following the client's missed opportunity to claim inheritance tax relief due to the executor's failure to advise them to do so.
  • Acting for the executor and beneficiary of an estate, seeking to return the estate to the position it was in prior to gifts being made in excess of £1m by the other executor and beneficiary, despite the fact they lacked the power to do so.
  • Acting for several national charities which are the residuary beneficiaries of an estate, seeking to recover the sale proceeds from a property that was subject to a specific legacy.


Index of tables

  1. Family
  2. Leading individuals
  3. Rising stars

Rising stars

  1. 1

The 'top flight family law team' at Brodies LLP acts for high net worth individuals and private clients, with a particular emphasis on high value divorce cases, pre-nuptial agreements and cohabitation agreements. The large and widespread team, which is led by Shaun George, also handles the full range of child law matters, including international abduction, contact orders and child residence disputes, and regularly acts in multi-jurisdictional matters pertaining to financial provision and forum shopping. Scott Cochrane has 'excellent knowledge' of international family law matters, while Lisa Girdwood is a leading voice on child abductions and the implications of Brexit in this area.

Practice head(s):Shaun George

Other key lawyers:Scott Cochrane; Lisa Girdwood


'Brodies has an outstanding team of family lawyers, with a deservedly great reputation. They are supported by an outstanding firm, which means that there is back-up when unforeseen issues arise in relation to other areas of law.'

'Brodies has a top flight family law team. It has a large team across three offices with strength and depth at all levels of seniority.'

'Very professional, high quality and well mannered team.'

'Lisa Girdwood is very approachable and takes time to explain things clearly.'

'Scott Cochrane was not only my solicitor, but a supportive advocate through a very difficult child custody matter. My case was very complicated with an international aspect to it and he always had extensive knowledge about the law.'

'Lisa Girdwood is well-informed and gives 100% commitment to her clients.'

Work highlights

  • Represented a client in a case involving cross-border aspects of 'forum shopping' on maintenance and divorce.
  • Represented a client to provide a creative solution to a complicated business case subject to HMRC clearance.
  • Represented a client in a highly contentious litigation in relation to the care of his children, both at first instance and on appeal.
  • Representing a client in a case involving complex international financial provision.
  • Application for return of a child under Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980 as instructed by the Scottish Government.

'Leading family law practice' SKO  acts for high net worth individuals, corporate clients and charities in a wide range of contentious and non-contentious matters, often relating to abduction and international adoption, and requiring in-depth knowledge of the Hague Convention. Rachael Kelsey - 'the doyen of Scots family law' is president-elect of the EU Chapter of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and is widely considered as one of the leading authorities on the implications of Brexit on family law. The 'insightful and emotionally astute' Robert Gilmour has particular expertise in artificial reproductive technology and surrogacy and in 2017 advised on the first reported private law contested declarator of parentage case in the UK.

Practice head(s):Rachael Kelsey

Other key lawyers:Robert Gilmour


'Undoubtedly the premier family law firm in Scotland. Its members provide a unique breath of expertise and experience in the whole spectrum of private family law.'

'This practice is head and shoulders above the rest in terms of family law in Scotland. Sensible, practical, pragmatic, thoughtful, understanding, empathetic, whilst also superlatively good technically - they are really unrivalled.'

'SKO is the leading specialist family law practice in Scotland. This is an impressive firm of dedicated and committed lawyers, who care about their clients and their work. The level of expertise is unparalleled in the Scottish market. The lawyers are supported by an excellent administrative team. Advice is always sound and client care is excellent.'

'Very good attention to detail and excellent client care.'

'A very intelligent and intellectually committed firm, with an awareness of the importance of rigorous research and academic engagement.'

'Every single partner and solicitor goes above and beyond simply delivering client work. 

'Rachel Kelsey is the doyen of Scots family law solicitors with a global reputation stemming from her involvement in the International Academy of Family Lawyers.

'Robert Gilmore is the leading practitioner in surrogacy law in Scotland.'

'Rachael Kelsey is an absolutely splendid solicitor. She has particular expertise in international matters. She has given a lot of her time to Brexit-related issues with various groups.' 

'Rachael Kelsey is the go-to person on Scottish family law issues. She has accurate working knowledge of the law, a wonderful charm and an ease at being with demanding international clients.'

'Robert Gilmour is calm, considered in his opinion, wise, reliable, efficient and professional.'

Key Clients


Scottish Government

Local Authorities in Scotland and England and Wales

Work highlights

  • Acting in Scottish proceedings in the first reported case in the UK on the operation of the Maintenance Regulation.
  • Advising on Court of Session divorce dealing with vesting of share options, overseas pension and support post divorce.
  • Advising on high profile divorce including an application to set aside pre-nup.
  • Novel and bespoke mediation process created for international child law matter.
  • Acting for applicant for declarator of parentage arising from inadequate record keeping by fertility clinics in donor sperm cases.

Balfour+Manson LLP handles a high volume of divorce claims that involve contentious elements such as economic disadvantage arguments, division of company assets, abusive behaviour and shared property in multiple countries. The firm's capabilities are also demonstrated by its work on cohabitation claims and child law matters including residence orders, contact orders and permanence orders. 'Calm and unflappable' practice head Shona Smith, a trained arbitrator and mediator, also sits as a member of the Family Law sub-committee of the Law Society of Scotland, while junior partner Jamie Foulis is seen as 'a rising star'.

Practice head(s):Shona Smith


'A strong family law team, with a huge bank of experience across a number of different facets - knowledgeable, approachable, communicative and above all, pragmatic.'

'A very well established firm with a highly experienced family law department.  The firm has a well-deserved excellent reputation for both its direct work with clients and its work as an Edinburgh agent for other firms from outside Edinburgh.'

'Shona Smith, is a standout family lawyer, who is hugely experienced. She is straighforward, clear and outcome-focused.'

'Shona Smith exercises a skilled and measured approach to her own cases and to management of the team. She is calm and unflappable.'

BTO Solicitors LLP's 'approachable and knowledgeable' family law team advises high net worth individuals in cohabitation and divorce disputes which relate to tax issues, dissipation of assets, property transfers, shared company interests and various other contentious points, as well as acting in child contact cases. 'Personable and skilled' practitioner Lesley Gordon is a go-to lawyer for divorce cases in which the parties are business partners.

Practice head(s):Lesley Gordon


'Lesley Gordon understands the key issues - she is particularly skilled at collaborative practice and is personable to deal with.'

'The family law team in Glasgow are friendly, approachable, sensible and knowledgeable in what they do.'

Lindsays frequently represents high net worth individuals in financial provision cases involving aspects such as residency disputes and disagreements over the distribution of matrimonial property or business assets. Another notable area of expertise for the firm is residence orders and contact orders of a contentious nature due to allegations of sexual assault or violence. The team also handles safeguarding matters for vulnerable children and young adults and cross-jurisdictional child abduction cases. 'Tenacious' and 'pragmatic' practice head Alison McKee has a niche in the developing field of surrogacy law and is frequently appointed by the Glasgow Sheriff Court's panel of solicitors to produce reports on contact and residence disputes. Dundee partner Jennifer Gallagher is chair of Scotland's Family Law Association.

Practice head(s):Alison McKee

Other key lawyers:Nina Taylor; Jennifer Gallagher


'Alison McKee has a wide breadth of experience and is equally at home litigating or trying to resolve matters by agreement. She is also very pragmatic.'

'Pragmatic, down to earth, client-focused and solutions driven.'

A superbly professional practice and very well resourced with the capacity to take on all sorts of sizes of work.'

'Alison McKee offered empathic understanding of my situation as well as informed advice.'

'Nina Taylor is a joy to work with. She has a warm personality which puts clients entirely at ease but is a robust negotiator and a formidable opponent in court.'

'Jennifer Gallagher is efficient in case management and has an excellent grasp of the law.'

Work highlights

  • Advised on international child abduction matter.
  • Handled cross-jurisdictional negotiation of financial provision on divorce.
  • Acted in highly contentious Sheriff Court action for financial provision on divorce and residence/contact of the three children.
  • Advised on complex financial provision and contact/residence matter.

MacRoberts LLP's thriving family law practice is frequently instructed in multi-jurisdictional cases relating to child abductions, relocation proceedings and financial provision upon divorce, often involving high net worth clients. The team, which is led by 'gifted family mediator' Jacqueline Stroud, has further expertise pursuing uncontested and contested adoption applications, advising on the drafting of prenuptial agreements, and acting in child contact cases. The 'outstanding' Marika Franceschi handles a wide range of matters for international clients, from asset division following separation to advising on ante-nuptial contracts.

Practice head(s):Jacqueline Stroud

Other key lawyers:Marika Franceschi


"The whole team is totally reliable, and the service has been outstanding. Any instruction is actioned immediately. We have to be able to rely on our Edinburgh agents completely, and have never been disappointed."

'MacRoberts has an excellent team with the full range of skills and a wealth of experience.'

'Marika Franceschi possesses an excellent knowledge of Court of Session procedure, even the less frequently used aspects.'

'Jackie Stroud is growing a strong reputation as a gifted family mediator. Mediation comes naturally to her - her warm manner means that clients feel at ease.'

"Marika Franceschi has a hugely empathetic manner with clients and substantial experience in dealing with high value financial divorce." 

"Jacqueline Stroud is an astute court practitioner."

Work highlights

  • Acting as Edinburgh agents in child abduction petitions at the Court of Session.
  • Acted in a number of adoption cases referred through local authorities and adoption agencies.
  • Advising an Italian national in respect of a pre-nuptial contract.
  • Acting in a long running divorce case involving technical arguments regarding changes to the nature of the husband’s company.

Morton Fraser 's family law practice regularly advises on financial provision cases related to divorce proceedings, often involving complex disputes over what qualifies as matrimonial property, as well as regularly being instructed to handle contentious child law cases, including securing the return of children under the Hague Convention. The team, which is led out of Edinburgh by the long-serving Rhona Adams, also pursues claims for local authorities in child law cases and often acts in cross-border claims. Adams works alongside Lucia Clark in Edinburgh, while the 'feisty and highly engaged' Fiona Sasan is the lead partner in the firm's Glasgow office. Consultant solicitor Savita Sharma has acted in several international child law matters and intra-UK disputes over the appropriate jurisdiction to raise court proceedings. Trudy Burns joined as a senior solicitor from Turcan Connell in early 2019.

Practice head(s):Rhona Adams

Other key lawyers:Lucia Clark; Fiona Sasan; Savita Sharma; Trudy Burns


'A well-established firm with a large family law team based in both Edinburgh and Glasgow.  The firm has particular experience in cross-border and international cases'.

'Morton Fraser has a high quality team working in Edinburgh and Glasgow. It is one of the leading firms in this area in both cities'.

'Fiona Sasan is highly experienced, instils confidence in clients'.

'Rhona Adams is an excellent mediator, excellent manner and very good cross border experience, careful and thorough'.

'Rhona Adams has a wealth of experience and a calm approach. Fiona Sasan is feisty and highly engaged. Lucia Clark is dual Scots/English qualified, thoughtful and intelligent in her analysis and advice'.

Key Clients

The City of Edinburgh Council

Orkney Islands Council

Crown Commercial Service Wider Public Sector Legal Services Panel

East Lothian Council

Aberdeenshire Council

Highland Council

West Lothian Council

Ministry of Defence

Work highlights

  • Acted for a wife in a financial provision divorce case in Edinburgh Sheriff Court.
  • Acted for petitioner in child abduction petition involving children removed from Estonia to Scotland.
  • Represented petitioner in application under Hague Convention for return of a child to Sweden from Scotland.
  • Acted for husband defender in financial provision divorce proceedings initially raised in Sheriff Court but then remitted to Court of Session.

Turcan Connell's practice has a strong track record of advising high net worth individuals in divorce proceedings involving complex elements such as the division of shared company assets, child custody and disputes over the date of separation. The team, which is led by managing partner Gillian Crandles, also advises on child abductions, relocations and abuse claims that often span multiple jurisdictions, as well as helping clients to set up prenuptial agreements. Solicitor-advocate Noel Ferry litigated several complex cohabitant claims last year in response to increased demand in this area, and 'skilled litigator' Lindsey Ogilvie was promoted to partner in 2018. Long-serving partner Alasdair Loudon retired in early 2019 after establishing the practice more than 18 years ago.

Practice head(s):Gillian Crandles

Other key lawyers:Noel Ferry; Lindsey Ogilvie


'The Turcan Connell team is one of the leading family law teams in Scotland.'

'Turcan Connell's family law practice was very different from my preconceptions and fears. No grandstanding, just excellent legal knowledge and quiet confidence. No aggressive behaviours, only conciliation and collaboration to reach a reasonable and managed solution.'

'The team is unique in that they have not just a few individuals that are strong in knowledge and capability but the whole team have strengths and work well together to deliver a service that is needed by their clients.'

'Gillian Crandles combines an in-depth knowledge of the law with an excellent client manner and real commitment to getting the best result for her clients.'

'Gillian Crandles is without peer as a family law solicitor; she has a finely tuned ability to quickly make a comprehensive assessment of a client's needs and concerns while still making them feel completely at the centre of her attention. She instilled a quiet but infectious confidence in me that the problems I described could be resolved with dignity. She leads her team with a caring style and a high level of professionalism.'

Aberdein Considine handles a wide range of claims in court and through mediation often relating to child welfare, including interdicts and exclusion orders, relocation disputes, and court orders to protect vulnerable children domestically and internationally. The team, which is led by the 'exceptionally thorough and hard working' Ruth Aberdein, is instructed in a number of complex cohabitant disputes, divorce proceedings and negotiations concerning prenuptial agreements where one party has significant wealth to protect. The 'diligent and sensitive' Naeema Sajid, who is a member of the Law Society of Scotland's Family Law Sub-committee, has particular experience of acting in child maintenance appeals and applying for guardianship orders.

Practice head(s):Ruth Aberdein

Other key lawyers:Naeema Sajid


'A very responsive and attentive team, regardless of what office you visit.'

'Ruth Aberdein is an exceptionally thorough and hard working solicitor.' 

'Naeema Sajid's sensitivity and demeanour projected calm throughout our dealings with her. She was fair and reasonable and knowledgeable regarding the specific questions and advice that were asked of her. Naeema kept me up to date and dealt with any queries swiftly.'

Work highlights

  • Defending Sheriff Court action involving a cohabitant’s claim in terms of section 28 of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006.
  • Sheriff Court action involving a cohabitant’s claim in terms of section 28 of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 and a separate action seeking an order for division and sale of heritable property.
  • Defence of Sheriff Court action for Interdicts and Exclusion Order.
  • Defence of highly acrimonious relocation case from one Sheriff Court jurisdiction to another approximately five hours away.

Anderson Strathern's practice acts for high-net-worth individuals, private clients and local authorities and has particular strength in cross-border divorce proceedings where assets are held in multiple countries. The team also shows a depth of knowledge with cohabitation cases and niche experience advising clients on surrogacy options and the transfer of embryos from one jurisdiction to another. Practice head Janice Jones, an accredited specialist in family law, has a strong reputation in the courts and handles the full spectrum of family and child law matters for clients.

Practice head(s):Janice Jones


'I found Anderson Strathern's professionalism and commitment to customer service set them apart from other firms. As well as providing excellent legal advice they engaged at an early stage to identify my preferred outcome and offered support and sound guidance throughout to achieve this.'

'Janice Jones was first class. My situation was highly charged and at times I was ready to give in to unreasonable demands but Janice was unwavering. She was calm, measured, professional and at all times focused on my interests and that of my children. I would advise anyone dealing with a family law matter to retain the services of Anderson Strathern - they will not be disappointed.'

'Janice Jones has very long-term experience, and is tenacious in pursuing her client's cause. Her organisational skills and preparation stand out.'

Key Clients

Fife Council

West Lothian Council

East Lothian Council

Blackadders LLP's broad practice acts on a wide range of divorce, cohabitation and separation claims that often invoke disputes over child maintenance, residence and contact as well as complex investigations into assets. The team also handles wrongful retention cases and defends child protection orders and permanency orders, as well as being involved in some unusual cases in which divorce proceedings are pursued in different courts or across multiple jurisdictions. 'Charismatic and efficient' practice head Craig Samson is regularly instructed by local authorities to act as safeguarder to vulnerable children.

Practice head(s):Craig Samson


'A depth of experience and skills within the team ensures we have access to a specialist as required.'

'Craig Samson is a good technical lawyer with excellent soft skills in mediation and collaborative practice'

'Craig Samson is charismatic, efficient, and technically knowledgeable. He has wide experience of conducting litigations of all sorts in the Sheriff Court and is well known for his presentational abilities. He builds strong relationships with clients, who come to rely on his practical advice.'

Harper Macleod LLP handles a wide range of financial provision matters, involving elements such as economic disadvantage claims, the division of shared company assets, awards of ailment, and parties living in multiple jurisdictions. The team also deals with cohabitation matters and disputes concerning residency, child support and adoption. 'Standout family lawyer' Jenny Smith, who is dual qualified in Scotland and England, advises clients on prenuptial agreements and cohabitation disputes, while senior associate Nadine Martin, who joined the firm in 2018, led the response by the Glasgow Bar Association to the Scottish Government's Consultation Paper on reform of the Children (Scotland) Act.

Practice head(s):Amanda Masson

Other key lawyers:Jenny Smith; Nadine Martin


'Increasing strength in depth and an excellent range of partners who are leaders in their field.'

'Harper Macleod distinguish themselves by their commitment to social and policy issues in family law as well as their commitment to their clients.' 

'Jenny Smith is a standout family lawyer. She searches out the best outcomes for her clients but always in a dignified way.' 

'Amanda Masson is an excellent practitioner. She runs complex cases with ability and sympathy.'

Work highlights

  • Represented wife in high net worth separation.
  • Acting for husband in a separation following a short marriage in relation to financial provision.
  • Acting for the husband who was a defender in divorce proceedings raised at Sheriff court where main asset was a partnership owned by both parties.

MTM Family Law's boutique, collaborative family law practice predominantly acts for high-net-worth individuals in cases arising from divorce, separation, and the dissolution of civil partnerships. These matters typically involve complex disputes over property division and source of funds arguments, as well as the distribution of shared business assets. In the contentious space, the team has defended relocation orders and Exclusion Appeals on behalf of clients. 'Pragmatic and empathetic' practice head Shona Templeton is frequently instructed by Glasgow Sheriff Court to prepare reports for Child Welfare cases and regular acts in separation cases where clients have significant commercial assets.

Practice head(s):Shona Templeton; Carolyn MacBride


'A niche practice which excellent at what it does in the family law field.'

'Integrated services, outstanding communication and genuine individual attention to client needs.'

'The founding partners Shona Templeton and Carolyn MacBride are excellent litigators and at the forefront of alternative methods of resolution including collaborative work and mediation.'

Thorntons Law LLP's family law team handles a high volume of difficult divorce and cohabitation matters, involving complex tax considerations, investigations into the financial affairs of partners, and disputes over matrimonial property. The team also regularly represents clients pursuing or defending contact and relocation orders, and demonstrates particular expertise managing such cases where clients have suffered abuse during the course of their relationship.

Practice head(s):Sandra Sutherland; Gordon McBean

Work highlights

  • Represented an elderly client in a complex financial provision matter against her estranged husband.
  • Advising and representing a client in a cross-border matter to gain child contact, where the client’s children had been taken away by his wife.
  • Represented a client in an unusual case involving cohabiting financial settlement claims.
  • Handled an unusual financial family law matter involving establishing marriage status in connection with tax demands.
  • Helping a client facing the potential relocation of their child to another country.

BLM 's team of 'true specialists' work particularly well with difficult financial cases, such as divorce proceedings involving allegations of domestic abuse, the division of assets held in multiple countries, and a novel civil partnership dissolution that raised a dispute about the ownership of embryos. In terms of child law, the practice advises clients on residence disputes, contact orders and exclusions orders - in one highly contentious matter, former practice head Siobhan Kelly was instructed as child welfare reporter to represent the interests of a child facing the prospect of foster care. Caroline Gillespie - who is 'always a step ahead of the opposition' has particular expertise in international child relocation and cohabitation cases.

Practice head(s):Caroline Gillespie

Other key lawyers:Siobhan Kelly


'Caroline Gillespie is on the ball and always a step ahead of the opposition.'

'The team has a great breadth of experience and diversity of knowledge, and an excellent reputation.'

'Passionate about their clients' outcomes, Siobhan Kelly and Caroline Gillespie both stand out.  Both have a huge knowledge base and are very well respected within the industry.'

Digby Brown LLP has carved out a specialism in pursuing contested adoption orders for clients, leading to a string of successful adoptions. Besides this line of work the firm has a reputation for advising high net worth individuals on prenuptial agreements and in representing clients in divorce proceedings, often with international aspects such as parties who reside in different countries. 'Charismatic and knowledgeable' associate Roger Mackenzie, who joined the firm in 2015 to set up the family law team, regularly acts in cases involving valuations of business interests. Sue Grant advises Scottish Adoption and sits on the Board of Clan Child Law.

Practice head(s):Roger Mackenzie

Other key lawyers:Sue Grant

Gilson Gray’s family law team, which was set up in mid-2017, has built up a strong foothold in advising clients on asset protection and negotiating the terms of prenuptial agreements, as well as handling high value divorce proceedings concerning economic disadvantage arguments and property transfers. Practice head Philippa Cunniff, who is a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, specialises in advising clients following relationship breakdowns and deals with intra-UK forum disputes.

Practice head(s):Philippa Cunniff

Other key lawyers:Sally Nash


'My solicitor was exceptionally supportive and worked hard to resolve matters. She provided excellent advice and took a strong and firm line in negotiations.'

'Philippa Cunniff has provided a friendly and very supportive service during a protracted period whilst dealing with my wife and her solicitor. I cannot speak highly enough about her response to my difficulties. I have complete confidence in her.'

'Sally Nash is not only a consummate professional, but a genuinely nice woman. I value the fact that Sally always listens attentively and sympathetically. She manages to be sympathetic and personable as well as been an excellent lawyer.'

Patience and Buchan's boutique family law practice represents high net worth individuals in divorce cases that involve disputes over awards of ailment, source of funds arguments and complex investigations into assets held overseas. The team also handles intra-UK relocation and contact matters concerning children and cohabitation claims, defending assertions of economic disadvantage. Founding partner Lorna Buchan, who is accredited in both family Law and mediation, is committed to resolving disputes - in particular those arising from divorce or child care - through mediation.

Practice head(s):Lorna Buchan

Other key lawyers:Ashley Simpson


'A well respected and knowledgeable local firm of family lawyers.'

'Lorna Buchan is a highly able litigator who is well respected by the bench and colleagues alike.'

Personal tax, trusts and executries

Index of tables

  1. Personal tax, trusts and executries
  2. Leading individuals
  3. Rising stars

Leading individuals

  1. 1

Rising stars

  1. 1

Brodies LLP acts for a wide roster of trusts, wealthy families and individuals, with particular strength in the establishment of family investment companies and family limited partnerships and expertise in all areas of estate planning, succession planning and in structuring trusts in the most tax-efficient manner possible. Practice head Mark Stewart, a dual-qualified accredited trust specialist, sits as Convener of the Law Society of Scotland’s specialist accreditation panel for trust law. The 'personable and down to earth' Alan Barr is a leading tax specialist; he previously gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament on its enhanced tax powers in relation to land and building transactions tax.

Practice head(s):Mark Stewart

Other key lawyers:Alan Barr


'The team's technical knowledge and practical advice is highly valued.'

'Alan Barr's advice is highly valued as his decisiveness when giving that advice.'

'Mark Stewart's technical knowledge is the best of any private client solicitor in Aberdeen. His ability to take a step back and think about bespoke solutions for clients is brilliant.'

'Alan Eccles is technically excellent and extremely efficient when producing any legal documents for our clients. He also simplifies complex issues in an eloquent manner.'

'Helen Kidd is extremely proficient and very approachable, takes great care when discussing client issues and family dynamics and always has the time to discuss separate matters when needed.'

Key Clients

Golden Charter Trust

Work highlights

  • Ongoing advice to Golden Charter Trust on the broadest range of trust related matters.
  • Advised wealthy family seeking to structure the proceeds of sale of business and be philanthropic.
  • Advised the widow of a successful entrepreneur who died without a will.
  • Advising a wealthy businessman in relation to his personal estate planning.

Turcan Connell’s 'professional and reliable' team covers the full range of matters for high net worth individuals, trusts, beneficiaries and charities, with a particular emphasis on advising business owners and land owners on tax and succession issues, and notable strength securing business property relief and agricultural property relief from HM Revenue & Customs. The team also regularly advises clients on multi-jurisdictional matters, such as tax structuring, and helps offshore trusts adapt to the legislation introduced in 2018 altering the tax obligations of UK beneficiaries. Firm chairman Alexander Garden has 'unrivalled knowledge' of private client taxation and sits as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Taxation.

Practice head(s):Simon Mackintosh; Ian Clark; Alexander Garden; Kenny MacDonald

Other key lawyers:Alexander Garden; Graeme Gass; Peter Littlefield; Tom Duguid


'Substantial expertise in relation to personal taxation, and high value trusts and executries.'

'Dedicated to their specialist sector and real experts in their chosen field.'

'Turcan Connell are very strong in advising on charity law, charity taxation and compliance. Some of projects involve collaboration with partners across the UK and Turcan Connell are very well placed to advise on both Scottish and English law.'

'Peter Littlefield is technically very good and his client handling skills are absolutely first class.'

'Tom Duguid's command of a wide range of legal sectors is extremely impressive - the quality of his work and advice is of a very high standard.'

Work highlights

  • Provided tax and succession advice to several new and longstanding non-domiciled clients with net worth ranging from £12m to £450m.
  • Provided tax and succession advice to several new and longstanding high net worth clients.

Anderson Strathern acts for trustees, executors and beneficiaries, predominantly in matters where the firm is instructed to provide advice on the structure of trusts, revise trusts and set up new trusts to manage the inheritance of assets. The team also handles succession planning for family businesses and utilises family investment companies to transfer assets in a tax-efficient manner. Dual qualified Carole Tomlinson is the lead partner for a number of large landed estates and has a particular interest in advising family businesses. Director of tax services Martin Campbell  provides advice on capital gains and inheritance tax to land owners and high-net-worth clients.

Practice head(s):Carole Tomlinson

Other key lawyers:Martin Campbell; Colin Henderson; David Campbell


"David Campbell is personable, extremely responsive and accessible. He is very experienced and always provides excellent practical advice." 

"The firm takes ownership and responsibility for each and every client and, where necessary, bringing in colleagues from specialist areas of their business to provide a seamless service." 

"Any potential problems or anxieties are dealt with speedily and competently bringing to each task a high level of professional knowledge, skill and experience at each stage."

Gillespie Macandrew LLP 's 'highly personable team' team acts for trustees, executors and beneficiaries, with a focus on advising clients on business property relief, agricultural property relief and estate planning. Outside of these core areas the firm has a commitment to the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act, and arising issues concerning guardianship and powers of attorney: Elspeth Paget is financial guardian for several clients and has particular expertise on powers of attorney and guardianships in the context of estate planning. Eilidh G Adams is a specialist on the UK France Double Tax Treaty on Inheritance Tax and the impact of the EU Succession Regulation.

Practice head(s):Elspeth Paget; John McArthur; Lianne Lodge

Other key lawyers:Eilidh Adams


"Highly personable team of experts who genuinely wish the best possible outcome for their clients." 

"A holistic approach, based on a desire to build long-term client relationships." 

"Elspeth Paget is a pleasure to deal with as she is very organised, clear at explaining points and options, and always follows up on actions, promises, and commitments." 

"John McArthur is shrewd, professional, attentive and a good collaborator with other professionals."

Murray Beith Murray handles a range of matters for trustees, including the winding-up of trusts, establishing charitable trusts and advising on restructuring options and the tax implications of asset transfers. The team, which is led by Peter Shand, also represents beneficiaries in the UK who hold assets offshore and acts for executors in multi-jurisdictional and domestic estate administrations. Dual qualified Ruthven Gemmell has expert knowledge of tax and estate planning, and sits as a part-time judge in the Finance and Tax Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal. The 'knowledgeable' and 'efficient' Andrew Paterson heads the executry group, while associate Caroline Pringle acts for several large trusts and advises clients on wills, powers of attorney and guardianships.

Practice head(s):Peter Shand

Other key lawyers:Ruthven Gemmell; Andrew Paterson; Caroline Pringle


"Excellent attention to detail.  Excellent clarity on costs likely to be incurred, with clear updates for any potential variation. Rapid response to queries, again, with excellent clarity."

"Andrew Paterson is knowledgeable, helpful and prompt in his responses." 

"Murray Beith Murray are quite different to other firms we have dealt with in the past who either take a long time to get back to you or alternatively you have to chase to even get a response. We felt that our business was wanted."

"Carol McGovern is extremely helpful and diligent."

Andrew Paterson is professional, helpful, very efficient and knowledgeable."

Shepherd and Wedderburn receives a high volume of instructions from high net worth individuals, executors and beneficiaries, predominantly in relation to succession planning and applications for business tax relief and agricultural tax relief, often concerning assets held in foreign jurisdictions. The team’s expertise also lies in establishing new trusts and business partnerships, advising on and drawing up wills and providing tax compliance advice to clients who reside outside of the UK. Douglas Sinclair, who is a member of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, has a strong foothold in offshore tax matters and complex cases concerning business partnerships. Malcolm Rust leads the private client and charities teams.

Practice head(s):Malcolm Rust

Other key lawyers:Douglas Sinclair

Key Clients

The Clydesdale Bank

Work highlights

  • Advising high net worth farmer and landowner in respect of their succession planning strategy.
  • Advising beneficiary of the estate of a prominent Glasgow businessman.
  • Providing advice to executors of a prominent Scottish auction house director, including advice in respect of unique assets.
  • Providing advice to The Clydesdale Bank in respect of various private client issues, including review of trust arrangements.

Balfour+Manson LLP’s team acts for trustees, beneficiaries and high net worth individuals, predominantly on the management and taxation of trusts, with a view to mitigate inheritance tax, and the drafting or rectification of wills. In addition the team, assisted by two welfare managers, regularly advises on incapacity, powers of attorney and guardianship, and in a recent case determined that a guardianship order needed revising. Practice head Shona Brown has a particular interest in working with elderly and vulnerable clients and those who lack capacity, while senior associate and qualified accountant Margaret Ross advises on tax, cashflow forecasting and asset allocation.

Practice head(s):Shona Brown

Other key lawyers:Margaret Ross

Dentons, which during 2018 recruited BTO Solicitors LLP's private client head Roddy Harrison, primarily acts for executors in estate administrations and for trustees in the winding up of trusts and restructuring matters, where tax expenses are a central consideration. The team has strength advising on all forms of tax and tax mitigation options, including inheritance tax, entrepreneurs’ relief and business property relief, as well as the impact of the legislative changes to inheritance tax in 2017 that increased the threshold for tax-free assets. Eleanor Kerr advises a number of high net worth clients on succession, asset protection and the tax-efficient structuring of wills.

Practice head(s):Eleanor Kerr

Other key lawyers:Roddy Harrison


"A high calibre team, with particular strength in estate planning." 

"The team is very professional and specialist in their field." 

"Eleanor Kerr and Alexis Graham stand out, not only for their technical knowledge and expertise but also for the manner in which this is put across at client meetings." 

"Eleanor Kerr is hugely experienced and explains complex matters to clients in a very easy manner which relaxes clients and helps them to understand their options and come to logical conclusions."

Work highlights

  • Appointed by executors in £29m complex estate administration.
  • Advised different generations of the same family with combined wealth of £29m on complex estate planning including the creation of family investment companies.
  • Continuing advice to Scottish businessman in respect of family trusts valued at £20m.
  • Complex estate planning provided to clients with net wealth in region of £37million.
  • Appointed by executors in £10m complex estate administration.

Harper Macleod LLP's team acts for trustees, executors and high net worth individuals in the administration of estates, the establishment and winding-up of trusts, including charitable trusts, and asset protection mandates, such as minimizing capital gains tax and obtaining business property relief to mitigate inheritance tax. The 'extremely approachable and empathetic' Pamela Niven heads up the practice, while, the 'utterly professional' Jacqueline Leslie has significant experience drafting wills, assuming power of attorney for vulnerable clients and advising on the legal and tax aspects of trust creation. Julie Doncaster handles all areas of the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act and has a niche in establishing personal injury trusts and will trusts for disabled beneficiaries.

Practice head(s):Pamela Niven

Other key lawyers:Jacqueline Leslie; Julie Doncaster


'The firm's key strength is that each member of their team delivers a very personal service to clients and professional connections alike. They achieve this by building personal relationships and really gaining a thorough understanding of the needs and concerns of their clients and professional connections.'

'The team's ability to deal with clients face-to-face in a friendly yet professional fashion successfully strikes a tricky balance. Their willingness to get involved in complex issues and their level of technical accuracy always impresses me.'

'The team possess first class knowledge and practical experience combined with an approachable style that is second to none.' 

The 'commercial but compassionate' practice at Lindsays acts for executors in the administration and winding-up of estates in matters that involve elements such as assets held in multiple jurisdictions, liferent trusts and deaths intestate, and has further expertise handling succession planning to mitigate inheritance tax or capital gains tax. The team also has specialist expertise handling contentious matters relating to the validity and interpretations of wills, and regularly acts for vulnerable clients in matters pertaining to the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act, either in a guardianship capacity or through being appointed Power of Attorney. Grant Johnson leads the private client team while 'legal encyclopaedia' Sandy Lamb has considerable experience establishing, managing and winding up trusts.

Practice head(s):Grant Johnson

Other key lawyers:Sandy Lamb


"The team is approachable, friendly and measured. They are a pleasure to work with." 

"The team have a wide range of skills and backgrounds. They offer both youth and experience and pride themselves on client relationships." 

"The individuals I work with are excellent at responding to queries and making themselves available for phone calls and meetings etc."  

"Lynsey Kerr is approachable, knowledgeable and someone who has the client's best interests at heart."

"Sandy Lamb is like a legal encyclopaedia, able to seamlessly switch gears to open up previously hidden chapters."

The personal tax team at MacRoberts LLP works alongside the firm’s corporate team to advise executors on estate administrations and negotiate with HMRC in respect of claims for agricultural property relief and business property relief, while also representing trustees in a wide range of areas including updating trust deeds and transferring assets into charitable trusts. The practice also prepares a high volume of tax-efficient wills, predominantly for a wills writing company in Scotland, and manages guardianship orders, powers of attorney and personal injury trusts. The team is headed up by 'exceptional legal mind' Carole McAlpine-Scott.

Practice head(s):Carole McAlpine-Scott

Other key lawyers:Brian Jackson


"The team is very approachable and with a wealth of experience in their field. They are approachable and are quick to establish good working relationships with their clients." 

"Exceptional technical knowledge and client service. - undoubtedly and easily one of the best firms I work with."

"The firm goes the extra mile to ensure quality outcomes for clients."

"James Inglis provides clear and concise advice and responds quickly to queries."

"Carole McAlpine-Scott has an exceptional legal mind and a very endearing personality. She makes the client feel very comfortable and in very safe and trustworthy hands."

Morton Fraser significantly bolstered its team during 2018 with the hires of Gregor Mitchell  and consultants Douglas Hunter and Keith Oliver from Addleshaw Goddard. The team carries out a high volume of work for trustees, including advising on the establishment and variation of trusts and charitable trusts, handling the administration of trusts with cross-border capital, and providing tax and legal advice on inherited assets. On the executors’ side, the firm are known for resolving conflicts of interest that emerge between executors and trustees and advising on inheritance tax liability relating to estate administrations. Chartered financial adviser Sue Hunter heads up the private client division and frequently advises high net worth individuals on their tax and succession needs.

Practice head(s):Sue Hunter

Other key lawyers:Gregor Mitchell

Work highlights

  • Advised on variation of charitable trust where advances in medical research mean that the funds could be used more effectively if merged with a larger charity.
  • Dealing with complex lifetime tax planning to maximise benefit to beneficiaries and minimise client's income tax liability.
  • Handled executry administration including significant private company share planning.
  • Acting for client regarding onshore and offshore tax planning involving farmland and partnership interests.
  • Represented executors in multimillion-pound estate with substantial family farming company.

Blackadders LLP has particular expertise advising clients on inheritance tax and lifetime planning, including setting up liferent trusts, managing assets held in multiple jurisdictions and liaising with HMRC about negligently valued property. More broadly the team represents executors and beneficiaries in contentious disputes with co-executors or sole executors, while also administering the financial and property affairs of incapable clients in the capacity of financial attorney.

Practice head(s):Johnston Clark

Other key lawyers:Laura McDowall


"The knowledge and accessibility of Johnston Clark, Scott Williamson and Douglas Sneddon is of great value."

Key Clients

Edinburgh City Council

The Salvation Army

The Great Scottish Tapestry

V&A Dundee

Guildry Incorporation of Dundee

The City of Dundee Burgesses

Balnacraig School

Glasgow City Council

Dundee City Council

Walter Craig Charitable Trust and W S Philips' Trust

Dovetail Enterprises

Office of the Public Guardian

BTO Solicitors LLP’s team is best known for advising executors, often with significant business interests, on succession planning and tax mitigation, while it also has expertise managing contentious issues such as legal rights claims and the misappropriation of funds by beneficiaries. The team are also relied upon to set up and administer private and charitable trusts to carry forward assets in a tax-efficient manner. Ross Brown is not only skilled in the drafting and administration of powers of attorney; he also has experience dealing with executors of deceased individuals with heritable property in multiple jurisdictions. Former private client head Roddy Harrison left to join Dentons in mid-2018.

Practice head(s):Ross Brown; Lynne Melville


"The team has a commitment to personal service with partners engaging with clients and not delegating work to junior staff, but at the same time keeping fee levels at a reasonable level."

"Ross Brown is quick to understand clients' situations and pitches his advice and approach to each case in a sensible, sensitive and appropriate way."

Work highlights

  • Advising on the tax matters associated with a landed estate worth in excess of £5m upon which both shooting and agricultural activities take place.
  • Providing tax and succession planning advice to a family with an estate valuing circa £8m including a percentage holding in a successful restaurant business, assets in Europe and associated trusts.
  • Handling an executory worth £500,000 with several complex tax elements.
  • Advising on the administration of a complex £1.5m estate with an extensive property portfolio and numerous business interests.
  • Advising the executors of an estate to maximise the exemptions available to include the preparation of a deed of variation, the applicability of the reduced rate of IHT and the submission of a loss of sale of shares claim.

Burness Paull LLP’s team stands out for its instructions by high net worth individuals seeking advice on the running of their business, whether that be succession planning or HMRC reporting obligations. In addition to these steady streams of work, the firm also represents executries in complex estate administrations, advises international clients on UK capital gains tax, and assists charities in a range of areas. Colin McKenzie heads up the firm's private capital division, while 'tenacious problem solver' Claire Macpherson has notable expertise managing the international side of cross-border estates and inheritance tax.

Practice head(s):Colin McKenzie

Other key lawyers:Claire Macpherson


"Expert knowledge of complex executry matters and private client work delivered to an incredibly high standard by a team who put their clients at the heart of everything they do."

"Technically excellent and passionate in their field." 

"Claire Macpherson is meticulous and has a fantastic attention to detail."

"Coming from a corporate background, Colin McKenzie is amongst a rare breed of private client solicitors who combine a private client manner in dealing with often sensitive individual and family matters with a corporate attitude in terms of speed of delivery."

"Senior associate Fiona Clarke is exceptional, very discreet, friendly and has the ability to communicate clearly and eloquently - a real asset to the team."

"A professional firm, with very good quality operators who have integrity and are approachable and experienced."

Work highlights

  • Acted for a leading Swiss private banking group, in relation to a review of its banking terms and conditions and their compliance with Scots law.
  • Advised a senior manager at a leading UK mutual life and investments company in relation to a third party trust’s powers to contract with the company relating to a contract regarding funeral plans.
  • Advising a corporate and trust services provider on various Scottish succession matters, including ownership of the company, HMRC reporting obligations and searches at the Scottish Courts to locate a copy of the deceased’s will and her beneficiaries.
  • Advised two high net worth investors in relation to a private investment in a high growth company.
  • Appointed as lawyers for a very high value executry; one of the largest and most complicated ongoing in Scotland.

Stronachs LLP’s practice receives instructions from high net worth clients to produce interpretations of wills, assist with the creation of trusts, and devise complex strategies to minimise inheritance tax. The team also has niche expertise in crofting law, and regularly acts in the formation and administration of charitable bodies. Private client practice head Jaclyn Russell is a 'safe pair of hands', while 'patient and efficient' senior associate Magnus Mackay specialises in all areas of succession planning.

Practice head(s):Jaclyn Russell

Other key lawyers:Magnus Mackay


"Stronachs has a good breadth of knowledge across all types of private client work, from agriculture to high net worth individuals."

"Everyone I dealt with at Stronachs knew their stuff and dealt with queries quickly and efficiently." 

"Jaclyn Russell is a very safe pair of hands with an excellent manner in dealing with clients." 

Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP has significantly expanded its offering of late, taking on a seven-strong team led by Rod MacLean, who focuses on wills, powers of attorney and trusts, as well as having particular experience of dealing with succession to interests in crofts. The hugely experienced Ian Macdonald, who leads the private client team, represents Scotland on the Society of Trust and Estates Practitioners' worldwide council, while other key members of the team include chartered tax adviser Susan Hoyle and chartered financial planner Graham Murray.

Practice head(s):Ian Macdonald

Work highlights

  • A high value executry including substantial property, business, hydro scheme and investment interests.
  • Reorganisation of family trusts and establishment of new trusts.
  • Acting in a substantial intestate cross-border estate.
  • Acting in a high value estate with no liquid assets to pay the Inheritance Tax, and a creative solution involving loans was found.
  • Family business succession planning for a large farming business.

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