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Friends Legal Acquires Garden Stirling Burnet

Friends Legal completes acquisition of East Lothian’s biggest law firm, Garden Stirling Burnet

Friends Legal has completed the acquisition of East Lothian’s largest estate agency and solicitors practice – Garden Stirling Burnet. As one of the oldest and most recognisable firms in the county, Garden Stirling Burnet will maintain its brand – albeit with some planned refreshing – and become part of Friends Legal’s network of businesses.

The merger forms a business with a turnover in excess of £7m per annum; a team over 60, multidisciplined staff; and 6 offices across the Scottish central belt. This will enable Friends Legal, with headquarters in Glasgow, to realise its ambitions of becoming one of Scotland’s largest private client firms.

Friends Legal’s services already included wide-ranging practices in Personal Injury, Clinical Negligence, and – the newest edition – By Your Side. By Your Side was Friends Legal’s first foray in private client services, bringing Executry, Power of Attorney, and Will Writing into the fold.

There is strong opportunity to grow Garden Stirling Burnet, with rapid investment and marketing strategy has already underway. The goal for the next 3 years is to double the existing team of 22 staff across the four offices in East Lothian: Haddington, Dunbar, Tranent, and North Berwick.

Friends Legal Merge with Garden Stirling Burnet - solicitors in Scotland

Speaking of the acquisition, Tony O’Malley, Managing Partner of Friends Legal, said of his ambitions for Garden Stirling Burnet:

“GSB is a great business with a brilliant reputation, fantastic people and an unmatched footprint across East Lothian. We will re-establish GSB in the local market by investing in its people, infrastructure, and brand.”

“It’s the largest legal practice by footprint and headcount in the county but has perhaps lost market share in recent years. Our aim is to put it firmly back on the map by offering premium services at a fair price. That is our over-riding priority, and we will need to recruit to achieve these aims.”

Garden Stirling Burnet has a great reputation for its Estate Agency, Conveyancing, and Executry services. However, there will be significant focus in enhancing the whole private client department, with significant focus on Family Law and Property Lettings. In time, the acquisition will also allow the Friends Legal Network to explore further services, including remortgaging and volume conveyancing.

Garden Stirling Burnet Office in North Berwick

Friends Legal hopes to capitalise on what it used to achieve the Best Use of Marketing and Social Media Award at the British Wills and Probate Awards in 2021 to enhance Garden Stirling Burnet’s marketing. Modernising the acquired company’s brand and digital presence is key to the strategy of enhancing the overall business.

The merger will not immediately release the current directors of Garden Stirling Burnet – Alan Borrowman, Angela Craig, and Ian Philip – from the firm. Retaining these directors, for at least a year, will allow for an easier transfer of management. It will also give the directors, who will work on a consultancy basis, a better work-life balance and focus on work. Alan Borrowman said of the acquisition:

“We would also like to wholeheartedly thank our loyal clients for their ongoing support and to reassure them that this merger will mean that Garden Stirling Burnet continues to be a leading legal presence here in East Lothian. Indeed, by becoming part of the Friends Legal network, our range of legal services to clients will become even more specialist yet accessible.”

“This is the right deal at the right time and will be fantastic for the dedicated and hard-working team we’ve established at GSB over many years. As directors, that is so important to us, and we are thrilled with the long-term plans and prospects for the business and the role that we play in the community.”  

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