Building belief in local markets
The office was being prepared to host more than a hundred guests, including former rugby international Chris Paterson who had agreed to perform the official ribbon-cutting duties.
For Jacqueline Law, the party organised to mark the opening of a new facility in Edinburgh was an opportunity to introduce the next stage in her growth plan. She wants to build Aberdein Considine’s national network of local services which has seen the legal, financial services and property group grow at 10% a year.
With turnover now at £24 million, it has defied the downturn in its core area and is seeing the benefits of the roll-out. Will it grow by the same rate again this year? She smiles.
“We will see growth, but not at the same rate,” she says, explaining that the recent expansion is partly a result of acquisitions, and there are no plans for further deals on the horizon.
Indeed, the firm has completed just four in the 37 years since it was established in Aberdeen, the most recent being the acquisition of A&S Ireland in Glasgow two years ago. That deal added two estate agency and leasing branches. The firm also bought the lender services business of Hay & Kilner in Newcastle, part of a step south of the border.
Edinburgh marks a significant move into the central belt and is a statement of intent. Mrs Law wants to reaffirm the business’s credentials across its three disciplines and the office overlooking the fashion boutiques in Multrees Walk is staffed by a team of 32 legal specialists, soon to be 40.
It will complement the estate agency and financial services operations and takes the group’s payroll to 451. The legal and estate agency businesses each account for 40% of operations with the remainder made up financial services advice.
Mrs Law says she wants the firm to develop a cradle-to-grave service, or what she prefers to call “whole of life”, helping with an individual’s first-time house purchase, through to setting up a business, writing a will, even handling a divorce.
She is about to celebrate a milestone of her own – the 25th year since she joined the firm as a trainee.
“I suppose I’ve developed my career alongside the firm’s growth,” she says. She became head of the corporate law team soon after qualifying and at 27 was made a fixed profit partner. A year later she became a co-owner as an equity partner.
Four years ago her fellow partners nominated her to succeed founder Harvey Aberdein as managing partner.
She describes it as a “huge privilege” to lead the firm she first encountered as a summer student while studying at university.
Since taking on the top job she has accelerated the plan to expand the firm’s national footprint.
“The plan to expand beyond the core north east area began in 2013. It was just before the oil price collapsed,” she says.
That decision proved fortuitous as the firm was able to soften the blow to the property market and hooked into new markets in legal and professional services in the central belt.
In any case, she is a firm believer in bringing the full range of services to each of its local office areas.
“We want to service clients locally, rather than pulling them in from other offices.
“I think clients see through that. They want to deal with someone who knows their local market.”
She says she felt the benefit of serving the oil and gas market by having a full working knowledge of the industry.
“I got to understand the technical language, what was important to them.
“The point is that if you get close to the client and understand their business then the relationship grows through trust and their confidence in what you are doing.”
The firm now has 20 offices and Mrs Law says she builds her working week around visiting them all as often as she can.
“The expansion was about opportunity. I believe we can now be seen as a national offering,” she says.
Job: Managing partner, Aberdein Considine
Educated: Aberdeen University (law)
Career: Joined Aberdein Considine as a trainee; specialised in corporate law; fixed profit partner; equity partner; managing partner
Best advice you have received?
My father instilled in me from a young age to always give my best. There is nothing more to give.
Outside work interests?
I am a keen gardener, and I also have an Alaskan Skif (motorised boat). The family goes fishing together. I also like war movies (favourite: Saving Private Ryan)
If you were to meet three people past or present, who would you choose?
George Michael, to croon the Symphonica (deluxe) album to me
Billy Connolly, to make me laugh
Mo Mowlam, for her pluckiness and I’d love to ask her how she landed the Good Friday Peace Agreement!