Practise Areas


"New Faces at Oldest Firm"

Burnett & Reid LLP, Aberdeen’s longest established legal and professional services practice, are delighted to announce a number of new appointments within the firm. Gillian Campbell, who relocated from Glasgow to join the firm last year, has now been assumed as a Partner in the Private Client department where she specialises in complex estates, trusts and inheritance tax planning.

In addition Burnett & Reid have also appointed Philip Anderson and Barbara Manson, both formerly Partners in Peterkins, as Consultants within the firm. Philip brings with him a wealth of expertise and local knowledge in relation to commercial property, and Barbara’s appointment further strengthens the firm’s Private Client offering. Kal Masia has also joined the firm from Peterkins to take up a position as a trainee solicitor and company registrar.

William Robertson, Managing Partner commented “These appointments are the latest in a number made by the firm recently, all of which have been in line with our strategy to offer our clients more than would be expected of a law firm, as we seek to maintain our broad range of professional services and to build on our history of innovation.” 

Originally founded in 1754, Burnett & Reid has adapted to local economic conditions for over a quarter of a millennium, throughout Aberdeen’s evolution from a small fishing and agricultural settlement, into a centre for textiles and ship building in the industrial revolution, then into the global energy hub which the city is today. 

During that time the firm has innovated to provide a range of services suited to its clients’ needs, having at times carried out functions of local government, the justice system, and even military recruitment, and having been influential in the development of many local and national organisations, including banks, hospitals, house builders, insurers, and transportation companies.  

Today the firm continues to adapt to its clients’ needs, offering a broad range of professional services which would not normally be associated with a law firm, including land management, factoring, accountancy, and architectural services, with additional professional services expected to be announced in coming months.

"It's Good to Talk!"

I recently found myself dealing with a beneficiary who had come to me to discuss the terms of her late father’s Will and to seek advice on whether it could be challenged. She was very upset at having seemingly been less favoured than her brother. In her view, the Will was unfair. Unfortunately, I see this situation fairly regularly.

I would say that most of our Will clients choose to leave their estate equally among their children. However, sometimes this is not the case and usually the disparity is for a good reason: for instance they may have concerns about the ability of the beneficiary to sensibly manage his or her financial affairs, having received a significant bequest. This could be for a number of reasons including issues with drugs or alcohol, immaturity or recklessness, perhaps suspicions regarding the beneficiary’s partner.

Alternatively, sometimes they may feel that one particular child is more in need of additional assets than another, who has done well for themselves in life. In the case of my most recent client, after some investigation, it appears that her father had chosen to favour her brother because he had been of more practical help and support to him during his dotage.

So, what happens when that very good reason for favouring one child over another is not articulated to that beneficiary during the deceased’s lifetime? The effect on the beneficiary and the family can be devastating. There is no comeback for the beneficiary, no means of resolving the hurt they feel. What can emerge is an irreversible family rift.

There is an obvious solution to this problem, as unpalatable as it may be to the testator. It’s a difficult conversation, but one which may save those loved ones you leave behind a great deal of heartache.

Kirsten McKinnon

Private Client Solicitor

"New Work SMEs - A draw to Aberdeen in their own right?"

I suspect when William Burnett was first admitted to the Society of Advocates in Aberdeen in July 1754 that he would not have imagined that the legal practice he was about to establish would still be in business over 260 years later, a successful professional services SME turning over several million pounds a year and providing employment to over 50 people.

Yet here we are, over a quarter of a millennium later, having survived as a practice through Aberdeen's evolution from a small fishing and agricultural settlement, into a centre for textiles, paper and ship building during the industrial revolution, and then into the global energy hub which the city is today.

Whilst the slowing of production in the North Sea has been on the agenda for a few years now and terms such as "Peak Oil" seem a little old hat, it is clear that in recent months the city has started to look a little more seriously towards its long term future and its prospects for further evolution, driven by the recent downturn in the oil industry as a whole.

Both the City Region Deal and Aberdeen Inspired are good examples of initiatives currently being promoted as ways of improving the city, it's infrastructure, and it's attractiveness as a place to base, grow and export business from, the former initiative focusing mainly on securing Aberdeen's future as a specialist skill's base for the Oil & Gas Industry and Biopharmaceuticals, and the later on improving the City Centre.

However, whatever the outcomes of those initiatives, the recent Small Business Outlook 2015 report published by the Centre for Cities suggests that SMEs involved in the professional services, digital and creative industries (termed "New Work SMEs") are becoming increasingly important in their own right and are key to driving job creation and economic output for cities across the UK.

Disappointingly, in fairly typical Aberdonian fashion, it seems that very little has been made of the good news story on this front, which is that the report has also ranked Aberdeen as the city with the highest concentration of SMEs in these industries out of 64 cities in the UK, and as having the second fastest expansion rate for new SMEs in these industries, with two expanding SMEs for every one contracting SME between 2011 and 2014.

Whilst the data does not include information from 2015, which will inevitably have some bearing on the rankings, it does seem fairly apparent that SMEs in these New Work industries do have the potential in the future to significantly support local economies and that every effort should be made to build upon our city's existing credentials and to attract more New Work SMEs and enable these types of business to continue to innovate.

For example just a couple of weeks ago I noticed that calls had been made at a Westminster's Scottish Affairs Committee for Scotland to take the Games Industry more seriously, a director of game developers 4J Studios having commented that it "is the biggest entertainment industry in the world and Scotland actually has a serious foot in the door and we don't treat it that way".

From what I know of Burnett & Reid's history as a firm it is apparent that part of the reason for our own longevity as a professional services practice has been the ability of our firm to innovate and adapt to handle different types of work, the business and its partners having acted in numerous capacities beyond what would be expected of a normal legal practice, from carrying out certain functions of local government, the justice system and military recruitment, through to acting as directors of banks, builders, insurers and transport companies.

We've never been afraid to be different. Even today we still provide a number of services which are fairly unusual for a law firm, including rural estate factoring and land management, architectural and accountancy services. What other law firm employs an architect? We have also recently started to look at operating with certain clients on the basis of more innovative, less traditional relationships through our new b&r direct service. SMEs are the life blood of our corporate and commercial offering and we are continuing to build the types of expertise required in order to support other New Work SMEs, including in areas such as Intellectual Property and Data Protection.

My point is that our own history, as one of the oldest businesses in Aberdeen, tells us that innovation is key to survival. It should also be noted that a number of local businesses in non New Work industries, have performed very well in recent years as a result of innovation in their own sectors particularly for example in the food and drinks industry, the many local craft breweries being a good example.

We've much to be proud of as a city and I am glad to see that there is more of a concerted effort by our public bodies and universities through the City Region Deal to development more skills, better infrastructure and digital connectivity in the area.

I'm all for securing Aberdeen's future as a skills base for the Oil & Gas Industry, which does make up a very large part of our firm's corporate and commercial work, but we should not overlook the fact that many of the New Work SMEs in our city have a wealth of skills that can easily be adapted to service other industries. As such I hope that New Work SMEs can in their own right be seen as part of the long term strategy and that collective efforts will be made to support SMEs to attract digital and creative work from industries which may not traditionally have a link to the local area.

I've already seen an increase of instructions in recent months from companies involved in digital media and new technology, but am always on the lookout for new clients who are innovative, I guess the importance of such companies just comes in to focus a little more in the prevailing local economic climate.

For more information on how we can support your SME, New Work or otherwise, please get in touch on 01224 644 333 or email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

William Robertson
Partner, Burnett & Reid LLP

"The Modern Slavery Act and the Oil & Gas Supply Chain"

In 1789 at the end of a three hour speech exposing the inhumanity of the slave trade, William Wilberforce famously challenged Parliament saying “Having heard all of this you may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know.”

Now, over 200 years later, in an attempt to tackle issues of modern slavery, organisations across the UK will be forced under section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, to examine their own businesses on an ongoing basis, stating annually the steps which they have taken to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place both within their own organisation, but also the wider supply chains serving their business.

The requirements introduced by the legislation will affect commercial organisations operating in the UK with a global turnover in excess of £36m, and require such organisations to produce an annual “Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement”. However, whilst this is unlikely to be problematic for such larger companies, the new legislation will have knock on effects for companies operating at all levels within the UK Oil & Gas Industry, who will inevitably be required to update or implement CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) policies and grant assurances to those higher up the supply chain as part of the contracting process.

William Robertson, a Corporate & Commercial Partner within the firm and the head of b&r direct, is regularly instructed to act on a range of commercial matters for SME companies supplying goods and services to the Upstream Oil & Gas Industry. He commented “the new requirements are going to require larger commercial organisations to actively examine their own structures and policies, undertaking regular due diligence processes and risk assessments in relation to their supply chains. This will undoubtedly lead to those organisations cascading compliance obligations down through the supply chain.”

“For some Oil & Gas service companies it may not be particularly hard to comply with any requirements placed upon them, particularly where, for example, they are only providing personnel for specific tasks. However beyond our own shores there are clearly global issues with forced labour, and where companies are importing goods or materials from overseas they will need to look very carefully at their sourcing and undertake steps to assess and manage the risks that any parts or elements of those goods and materials may be the product of organisations which are directly or indirectly engaged in modern slavery or human trafficking.”

“Fundamentally we know these issues need to be addressed and I’m sure the vast majority of businesses in our part of the world will give this proper attention. The industry has outperformed many other sectors in recent years when it comes to Health and Safety, and it would be great to see companies operating in the North Sea and the major industry bodies taking the lead on such an important issue, despite the economic challenges currently faced.”

“There are not the same criminal liabilities which are attached to offences under the Bribery Act 2010, but there are requirements on organisations affected by the anti-slavery legislation to publish their Slavery and Human Trafficking Statements in a prominent place on their website and so there’s certainly going to be very real public scrutiny of this new legislation. We are already working with some organisations who are taking steps now to ensure they are prepared when the new regulations properly kick in from 31 March 2016.”

If you are interested in finding out more about how Burnett & Reid LLP can advise your organisation in relation to these matters, or any other matter affecting SME’s in the Oil & Gas Industry, or to chat generally about any of our b&r direct services, then please contact William Robertson, Corporate & Commercial Partner, on 01224 644 333 or by email at
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