250 years of Trust + Innovation

When David Stewart established his legal practice in 1768 – the year after construction of Edinburgh’s New Town began – he laid the foundations of the firm that became Shepherd and Wedderburn.

Since then, Shepherd and Wedderburn has grown to become one of Scotland’s largest law firms – with offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Aberdeen – and our relationship with the business and financial community has endured and prospered. We have been at the forefront of innovation in all the key sectors of the economy – from the expansion of Edinburgh’s financial services sector and the privatisation of state industries to, more recently, our work with one of Scotland’s first tech unicorns and on landmark clean energy projects.

Our 250th anniversary year is an important milestone for our firm and an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the achievements of our clients, our role in their success. Building on our heritage of excellent client service, our focus is firmly on the future, and on ensuring we maintain our proud tradition of supporting innovation, economic growth and international commerce. Shepherd and Wedderburn is in the privileged position of working with clients in Scotland, the UK and abroad who are leaders in their industries and sectors. Establishing long-standing relationships of trust, founded on legal advice and client service of the highest quality, is our hallmark.

To recognise our unremitting focus on clients and the contribution they make to economic growth, we have commissioned The University of Strathclyde’s Fraser of Allander Institute to undertake a major research project that will help Scottish businesses, organisations and entrepreneurs best position themselves for the future.

Our 250th anniversary will also see us build upon the positive contribution our people have made to the communities in which we live and work, through our extensive programme of volunteering and providing financial support to a wide variety of charities and our provision of pro bono legal advice.

I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of the firm, to thank our clients, colleagues and alumni, who have been critical to our progress over the past 250 years. I look forward to you joining us on the next chapter in our story, and to Shepherd and Wedderburn supporting you in the years ahead.

Paul Hally, Chairman

Our 250 year journey with our clients

Shepherd and Wedderburn has a proud history of innovation and of supporting clients on landmark projects in every sector. Our focus is firmly on the future, and on ensuring we maintain our proud tradition of supporting innovation, economic growth and international commerce. You can read our full firm history here.

Construction begins on Edinburgh’s New Town, following a design competition won by the architect James Craig. The New Town is widely considered a masterpiece of city planning and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
David Stewart lays the foundations of Shepherd and Wedderburn when he is admitted as a Writer to the Signet on 6 July 1768 and establishes his law practice in Edinburgh. In 1793, William Patrick enters into partnership with David Stewart and they adopt the firm name of Stewart & Patrick.
What does the future hold for urban and city planning? Sustainable cities have the potential to help us decarbonise, increase and improve our housing stock, fuel economic growth and deliver the quality of urban life we all desire. Read More
The Open is held for the first time on 17 October, 1860, at Prestwick golf course. In 1871, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers join Prestwick as joint organisers of golf’s oldest championship.
In 1830, the firm assumes James McEwen, followed by John Carment in 1848, and is renamed Patrick McEwen & Carment. Joseph Wedderburn and Graham Watson join the practice in 1878 and the firm’s name is changed to Carment, Wedderburn & Watson.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club and The R&A have been clients of Shepherd and Wedderburn since 1998. The firm has been advising The R&A on evolving its constitution to admit women members and, subsequently, its merger with the Ladies Golf Union. Read More
The Second Industrial Revolution drives a manufacturing, engineering and ship-building boom in Glasgow, which becomes a hub of international trade. Glasgow flourishes as the Second City of the Empire.
In 1922 Carment, Wedderburn & Watson amalgamates with Guild & Shepherd and the combined firm is renamed Shepherd and Wedderburn. With 10 partners, the new firm is one of the largest in Scotland.
Just as the industrial revolutions transformed western economies, the digital and technological revolution is transforming commerce and the way we live and work. Read More

Professor Sir Ernest Wedderburn OBE

As the world goes to war, Professor Sir Ernest Wedderburn OBE, changes the face of combat with a new system for calculating the allowance made for ballistic winds in long-range artillery shelling.

Meet Sir Ernest
The United States’ 13-year ban on alcohol sees it become one of the most lucrative export destinations for Scotch whisky, and production soars. By 1936, three years after prohibition ends, the United States has become Scotch whisky's biggest export market.

Much of Shepherd and Wedderburn’s focus is on investment trust management, with a number of partners acting as company directors. The Hon James Balfour, who retired from the firm in 1927, had served as Chief Assistant to the Financial Adviser to the Persian Government.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, around 30 partners and staff are called up for active service.

In 2014, the firm acted for William Grant & Sons on its acquisition of the 268-year-old whisky liqueur, Drambuie, which rose to global prominence in the 1950s as a key ingredient of the Rusty Nail, the favoured cocktail of the legendary Rat Pack. Pending the sale, the secret recipe for Drambuie was kept in Shepherd and Wedderburn’s safe.
Following Labour’s landslide General Election victory in 1945, the period of post-war rebuilding begins. The foundations are laid for the Welfare State, the National Health Service, universal child benefit and National Insurance.
In 1959, the firm merges with Macpherson & Mackay WS, a specialist court firm, and expands its litigation department.
Rapid advances in technology – from automation to artificial intelligence – are reshaping the UK workforce, with employment law, on occasion, struggling to keep step with the pace of change. What are the key challenges for employers and employees?Read More

William ‘Bill’ Bowes

William ‘Bill’ Bowes begins his career at Shepherd and Wedderburn as an office junior straight from school, aged 14. On his return to work after service in the Second World War, Bowes is encouraged by Professor Sir Ernest Wedderburn to study law. He qualifies as a solicitor, develops a successful practice and is assumed as a partner in 1967, spending more than 50 years with the firm before retiring as a senior partner in 1989.

Meet Bill
As the nation continues to rebuild, city skylines are transformed with the arrival of high-rise tower blocks. A new airport opens in Glasgow in 1966. The same year, the UK Government also commits to rebuilding Prestwick Airport for the “jet age”. Car ownership transforms consumer behaviour, and town and city retail precincts blossom, changing cityscapes and the focus for property investment.

The Henry Report: Scottish Home and Health Department, Scheme for the Introduction and Operation of Registration of Title to Land in Scotland, authored by Shepherd and Wedderburn partner George Henry, is published in 1969. The detailed proposals for a scheme of registration of title lead to the introduction of the system of land registration that is still used throughout Scotland to this day.

Meet George
Shepherd and Wedderburn’s Property Conference is a highlight of the UK commercial property calendar, bringing together industry experts to share their unique perspectives and helping chart the sector’s course in the years ahead.

Professor George Henry

In many ways the outstanding figure in the firm in the post-war era.

Meet George
The passing of the UK Continental Shelf Act heralds the start of North Sea exploration activity, which accelerates during the 1973 oil crisis. In 1970, BP discovers oil at the huge Forties Field, with the first oil piped to the mainland in 1975. The discovery of North Sea oil and gas transforms the Scottish and UK economy and sees Aberdeen emerge as the oil capital of Europe
As the oil boom gathers pace, Shepherd and Wedderburn enters into what is now a 30-year-plus relationship with Cairn Energy. Cairn, which was founded in 1980, has explored, discovered, developed and produced oil and gas assets in locations throughout the world.
The firm’s 90-strong Clean Energy Group is currently advising on projects globally, including what will become the world’s largest tidal array project in the Pentland Firth and what will be the world’s largest offshore wind farm, off the Yorkshire coast. As we transition to clean energy, what does the future hold for the renewables sector? Read More
The deregulation of UK financial markets, known as ‘Big Bang’, is implemented on 27 October 1986 - revolutionising the fortunes of the City of London and transforming it into one of the world’s most important financial capitals.
Shepherd and Wedderburn acts for Edinburgh fund manager Ivory and Sime, helping it launch a range of ground-breaking investment trusts. The firm continues to act for its successor, F+C Asset Management, and one of its trusts, European Assets Trust.
Amid speculation about the future of economic regulation in the UK, specifically around blockchain and cryptocurrencies, we explore what the future may hold for financial services here. Read More
1993 sees Britain pioneer the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), a structure that allows private investor finance into UK public sector infrastructure projects for the first time.
Shepherd and Wedderburn advises on the landmark PFI project to build the Skye bridge – one of the first major infrastructure projects built in the UK under this new funding model. The firm’s team – led by Paul Hally, now its chairman – acts for Skye Bridge Limited, the special purpose vehicle established to build, own and operate the new crossing. The bridge revolutionises life on the island and helps the local tourism industry flourish.
Shepherd and Wedderburn continues to advise on innovative new infrastructure delivery models, including acting for The City of Edinburgh Council in connection with its pathfinder Growth Accelerator Model Project involving the regeneration of the St James Quarter, and West Lothian Council in connection with its City Deal Project.
By 1995, the rapid development of digital technology and growing popularity of the internet gives rise to the dot.com boom and the expansion of tech start-ups in Scotland.
Shepherd and Wedderburn is at the forefront of Scotland’s blossoming digital sector, advising Orbital Software on a £1.5 million equity financing. Orbital was one of Scotland’s first home-grown software businesses to achieve global scale.
In June 2018, Shepherd and Wedderburn act for award-winning Scottish tech entrepreneur Alfred (Alf) Gordon in the multi-million pound sale of insurance technology platform Qdos Contractor to US-based Tokio Marine HCC. Read More
The Scottish devolution referendum on 11 September 1997 sees the country vote overwhelmingly for the establishment of a Scottish Parliament.
Shepherd and Wedderburn expands its geographic reach, opening its first Glasgow office on St Vincent Street in 1997. Following a period of strong growth, the firm relocates to its current office on West Regent Street, which now accommodates more than 100 colleagues.
As the UK prepares to leave the EU, what impact is Brexit likely to have on the Scottish Parliament and its responsibilities? Read More
With the UK gas and electricity markets now privatised, part of the UK Government’s programme of privatisation of public utilities, the aim going forward is to encourage more competition in the market and increase consumer choice.
Shepherd and Wedderburn establishes, on behalf of Scottish Electricity Settlements Limited a 50/50 joint venture between ScottishPower and Scottish and Southern Energy – the legal and regulatory framework that enables all domestic customers in Scotland to choose their electricity supplier.
How will the UK continue to participate in the EU Internal Energy Market post-Brexit? What is the future for cross-border gas supply and electricity transmission? Read more
The introduction of fibre broadband to the UK in 2000 heralds a digital revolution that transforms our working and private lives and fuels the rise of tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon.
In 2001, Shepherd and Wedderburn opens an office in the City of London. This allows the firm to support some of the world’s newest and biggest businesses – the tech start-ups – and expand its network of international clients.
In 2018, Shepherd and Wedderburn advises rural and remote broadband provider Satellite Solutions Worldwide on its £12 million fund-raising to complete two key acquisitions in order to expand into German and Italian markets. Read more
In 2010, Shepherd and Wedderburn advises Albion Water on a landmark, multi-million pound damages claim against Welsh Water – the firm’s first funded litigation case, securing what was then the highest ever award for damages awarded by the Competition Appeal Tribunal.
In 2017, Shepherd and Wedderburn becomes the first top 100 UK law firm to offer funded litigation in partnership with a litigation funder (Burford Capital). That year, the firm also advises on a landmark Scottish Islamic financing deal on behalf of the owner of Bridge View and Consort House in Aberdeen.
Commercial litigation funding is set to revolutionise commercial disputes, giving companies the legal tools to take on larger competitors, protect intellectual property, and, in some cases, convert a dispute into an asset. Read more
Following the 2008 global financial crisis, the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act 2013 introduces a number of reforms, notably the ring-fencing of core retail banking from higher risk investment banking functions, as well as new, tougher requirements on banks to hold larger cash reserves as a buffer against market instability.
Shepherd and Wedderburn enhances its offering in financial services and banking with the acquisition of Tods Murray in 2014. Two years later, the firm acquires the Commercial Law Practice in Aberdeen.
Open Banking promises to revolutionise the banking sector by encouraging competition and allowing customers to choose which businesses, other than their bank, can access their financial data. So what does the future hold? Read more
In 2017, Scotland’s food and drink exports rise to a record high of £6 billion - almost £570 million more than 2016 - with salmon exports alone topping a record £600 million.
Shepherd and Wedderburn cements its status as one of the leading advisers to Scotland’s food and drink sector, working for clients such as Chivas Brothers, Genius Foods, Whyte & Mackay, Scottish Sea Farms and the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, the salmon farming industry trade body.
Looking firmly to the future, in 2017 the Scottish Government publishes its 2030 Ambition to more than double the food and drink sector’s turnover (at the time of writing worth £13.5 billion) to £30 billion by 2030. What is the sector’s post-Brexit future? Read more

Ivor Guild

The extraordinary life and times of ‘The Duke of Princes Street’ Ivor Guild.

Meet Ivor
Looking to the future

Shepherd and Wedderburn builds on its legacy of innovation across the key sectors of the economy by commissioning the University of Strathclyde’s Fraser of Allander Institute to produce Scotland in 2050: Realising Our Global Potential.

Scotland 2050

Scotland in 2050: Realising Our Global Potential

Our lawyers are privileged to work with clients who are leaders in their industries and sectors, in Scotland, the UK and abroad. We are currently supporting businesses in more than 100 jurisdictions, advising on specific projects, helping them expand their overseas operations or supporting them in entering new markets.

Building on our unremitting focus on clients and the contribution they make to the economy, we have commissioned The University of Strathclyde’s Fraser of Allander Institute to undertake a major research project to help Scottish businesses, organisations and entrepreneurs best position themselves for the future. We have used fresh insights drawn from economic data and long-term global growth forecasts to inform a conversation with our clients and key industry contacts, which will help identify how they – and Scotland – can mitigate the challenges and seize the opportunities in the years ahead against the backdrop of a rapidly-evolving global economy.

Find out more

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