Glasgow lawyer retiring after 49 years service

Donald Reid retires from Mitchells Roberton after 49 years

FROM dealing with the assorted miscreants at the notorious Marine Court in Glasgow to presiding over one of Scotland’s oldest and most venerable law firms, Donald Bremner Reid has had a remarkable life at the heart of the UK legal profession.

The specialist consultant at, and former chairman of, Glasgow-based Mitchells Roberton is hanging up his gown after a career spanning 49 years, over the course of which he has won a creditable share of law’s glittering prizes.

As a partner since 1978 and chairman from 1997 until April last year, he oversaw a sustained period of growth in the firm which can trace its involvement in Scottish legal affairs back to the Jacobite rebellions in the 1700s,

And, while instrumental in strengthening Mitchells Roberton through a series of mergers and acquisitions, he has also been vocal in lamenting the flow of work away from its historic, diverse roots into larger firms, many of which have themselves fallen into the hands of international conglomerates.

Born and raised in Glasgow, Donald Reid gained an MA in Philosophy from Glasgow University in 1971 before receiving his LLB two years later. He was apprenticed to Russell & Duncan and qualified as a solicitor in 1975. 

It was with this firm – which was later subsumed into Mitchells Roberton – that he was rostered to the district courts, including the Marine, which dealt with the colourful carousings of the then busy dockland community.

He said: “I represented the overnight custody accused when they appeared in court in the morning. My record in trials was 100% guilty verdicts. I decided criminal law was not my forte.”

Reid joined Mitchells Johnston Hill & Hoggan, the oldest firm in Glasgow, in 1976 and, under the guidance of partner Norman McMillan, specialised in commercial property work with prestigious clients such as Commercial Union – work which took him to London and which gained him a valuable network of agents and legal professionals.

Another major client was the Universities Superannuation Scheme, for whom Reid acted in the purchase of the Gyle Shopping Centre in Edinburgh for what at the time was believed to be the largest single property price ever achieved in Scotland.

When Mitchells Johnston Hill & Hoggan merged with Mackenzie Roberton to form Mitchells Roberton, Reid became the key intermediary with major client the Clydesdale Bank, dealing in banking and company law, property transactions, loan securitisation and asset finance.

In 1980, he was invited by his alma mater to tutor in Legal Practice, which he did for 20 years. He also became a distinguished speaker at legal conferences and at seminars on the CPD circuit.

The last 20 years of Reid’s career were heavily concerned with giving expert evidence in disputes and litigations, building a formidable reputation and giving opinions in more than 800 reports and countless court appearances.

When he became chairman at Mitchells Roberton in 1997, he identified that a number of smaller legal firms were facing succession issues as their principals grew older and facilitated a string of mergers or asset transfers of smaller firms and sole practitioners into his firm.

This began with Faulds Gibson and Kennedy and was followed by firms such as John J Smith, McClure & Partners, Olaf Sutherland, Grant Brown Lindsay, Craxton and Grant, J E Marr & Co, Ross Harper, Donaldson Alexander Russell & Haddow, Adie Hunter and Kerr Barrie.

Late in his career, Reid was approached by the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow to become its Vice-Dean, and then subsequently its Dean, becoming involved in a number of positive initiatives and investments.

He said: “As I step into retirement, I believe I am leaving a legal firm which is in good heart and well placed to face the burgeoning challenges of the mid-21st century. Although I am the only indispensable person the world has ever known I’m sure they’ll manage without me.”

Donald Reid was succeeded as Chair of Mitchells Roberton by Morag Inglis.

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