For the team at Shepherd and Wedderburn, Aberdeen, the north-east and the north of Scotland is the land of opportunity, so much so that the firm recently reaffirmed its commitment to the region by investing in a new office in the city.
Shepherd and Wedderburn opened the doors to its new Albyn Place premises in December 2021, which it hopes will become a place where clients can work with highly trained and experienced specialist lawyers drawn from across the largest Scottish-headquartered UK law firm.
Supporting clients active in all sectors (including clean energy, agriculture, food and drink and education, as well as a growing number of individuals who turn to it for wealth and tax advice), the firm has long had a presence in the region but is firmly focused on the future.
Given the Scottish Government’s commitments to renewable energy and Shepherd and Wedderburn’s own commitments to net-zero and sustainability, it is perhaps not a surprise that the firm’s lawyers see the home of oil and gas as a potential clean energy hub. They believe Aberdeen offers the potential to leverage the experience amassed in the North Sea over the past five decades to support a revolutionary green energy transition.
Keir Willox, an Aberdeen-based corporate finance partner, explained: “We see tremendous potential for economic growth in the region, harnessing the North Sea supply chain and Scotland’s plentiful opportunities for clean energy generation, and supporting the growing number of innovative SMEs in the area.
“It really is a pivotal moment for Aberdeen and the north of Scotland and having a physical presence in the city is vital for creating and building those lasting trusted adviser relationships that are the firm’s hallmark.”
Shepherd and Wedderburn is no stranger to the energy sector, having worked on landmark projects with clients for decades, including the Moray East and Neart Na Gaoithe offshore wind farm developments.
Clare Foster, a banking partner and the firm’s head of clean energy, said: “Our clean energy practice comprises more than 90 lawyers across all disciplines and accounts for around 25% of our revenue. Our breadth of knowledge and experience affords plenty of opportunities and touchpoints with the sector – from developers and landowners to investors and many others.”
With a team that is genuinely passionate about clean energy – many are members of, or office holders in, green energy organisations – Clare, who sits on the board of industry body RenewableUK, believes they have the leading edge for clients.
But it’s not all about energy generation or even wind farms.
Keir explained: “The transition to net-zero affects all businesses and will be at the heart of every decision companies will be making.”
As the conversation around sustainability and net-zero has picked up pace in the past few years, Shepherd and Wedderburn’s board made the decision to be the “sustainable choice” for legal services.
Clare said: “It did involve a lot of tough conversations about change but internally the support was there and it means that we are walking the walk alongside our clients. We want to demonstrate that we are playing our part to try and make a difference, not just advising clients how they can achieve net-zero.”
The firm is now a sustainability leader in the Scottish legal sector. It has committed to being net-zero for greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and was the first law firm to sign the Edinburgh Climate Compact.
Clare and Keir see considerable potential in the north of Scotland, not just for businesses and people directly connected to the energy sector, but also for the network of infrastructure and business that stretches far and wide beyond it.
Clare added: “There is a huge amount to play for and we see the transition from oil and gas to clean energy in the next few decades as a major opportunity, not just for us but also for our clients.”