The Oldest Firm in Glasgow

The present firm of Mitchells Roberton came into being on 1st January 1985 through the merger of two firms, Mitchells Johnston Hill and Hoggan on the one hand and Mackenzie Roberton & Co. on the other. Mitchells Johnston Hill and Hoggan itself was the creature of a merger when the firms Mitchells Johnston & Co. and Hill & Hoggan combined on 1st January 1972.

Both Mitchells Johnston & Co. and Hill & Hoggan, despite a number of changes of names over the years, can trace their origins at least as far back as the 1740s, the time of the Second Jacobite Rebellion. The former firm traces its origin to Thomas Grahame and the latter to James Hill, both of whom were in practice during that decade. These men were in fact brothers in law, having married daughters of John Robertson, himself one of the leading lawyers in Glasgow at the beginning of the eighteenth century. John Robertson had no sons and it is accepted that much of his practice transmitted to his two sons in law.

Going back even further in time, John Robertson had been in practice with his father Robert who was admitted as a member of the Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow in 1686. The Robertsons were related to the famous Glasgow family of Hutcheson, who founded Hutchesons’ Hospital and Hutchesons’ Grammar School. Even to this day Mitchells Roberton continues to be associated with these two institutions.

The firm’s history is touched by the First Jacobite Rebellion as well as the Second. In 1715 John Robertson is noted in the records of the city as being the lawyer who was sent to Stirling by the Town Council to report on the progress of the rebels.

Partners from the respective firms have been active in the business and legal affairs of the city for nearly three centuries. Perhaps the most prominent public figure was Robert Grahame, who had the unique distinction of becoming the first elected Lord Provost of Glasgow in 1833 after his retiral from the firm, which was then known as Grahame and Mitchell.

Rather in the manner of Oxford colleges, there used to be a friendly rivalry between the firms of Mitchells Johnston & Co. on the one hand and Hill & Hoggan on the other as to which was in fact the oldest firm in Glasgow. That problem was definitively resolved with the amalgamation of the two firms in 1972.

While perhaps not so venerable as the other two, the third branch of the family, Mackenzie Roberton & Co. is no young upstart either. It was founded on 1st July 1896 by the amalgamation of the two firms of Roberton, Low, Roberton & Cross and Mackenzie, Gardner & Alexander. The former firm was founded prior to 1800 by Nathaniel Stevenson. The latter firm can trace its history to 1803.

More recently Mitchells Roberton has welcomed more additions to the family. In 2007 we merged with Faulds Gibson Kennedy, a reputable city centre firm who also boasted a proud history. In 2008, following the successful merger with Faulds Gibson Kennedy we acquired the business of Sutherlands Solicitors in Bearsden. More recently in 2011 we took over the business of John J Smith & Co Solicitors in Clydebank and Craxton & Grant Solicitors in Bridge of Weir. On the 10th May 2012 we arranged with the Interim Judicial Factor handling Messrs Ross Harper’s affairs  to take delivery of Wills , Title Deeds and other documents that Ross Harper held for their clients. On the 1st October 2012 we were joined by Hugh Grant of Grant Brown Lindsay as a Consultant.

On  5th April 2013 Donaldson Alexander Russell & Haddow merged their practice with our own, Kenneth Gibb becoming a Consultant. Donaldson Alexander Russell & Haddow can trace their origins to around 1900, the firm at that time being called Donaldson Alexander & Kirkwood. The modern firm was actually made up of three firms, Donaldson & Alexander, Russell & Duncan and Dickson& Haddow. Our Chairman Donald Reid served his apprenticeship with Russell and Duncan. It is interesting to note that the late John Smith former leader of the Labour Party worked  as an assistant with Donaldson & Alexander but at that time had his sight firmly fixed on a political career and Annabel Goldie , former leader of The Scottish Conservative Party was a Partner in Dickson & Haddow and latterly with Donaldson Alexander Russell & Haddow. Annabel Goldie has now received a peerage and will be sitting in the House of Lords.

In April 2016 the firm of J E Marr & Co merged with us and their principal James Marr joined us as a Consultant, bringing with him four members of staff. J E Marr & Co had built up a substantial practice in private client work, conveyancing , debt collection and insolvency and these areas fitted in well with our own areas of expertise.

Mitchells Roberton then merged with Adie Hunter, Solicitors, in March 2017. Adie Hunter was established in 1988 by David Adie who had resigned from a previous partnership in a legal firm in Glasgow and was joined the same year by Graeme Hunter. Since 1988 they built up a reputation for carrying out commercial property work, work for small businesses, domestic conveyancing, Wills, Trusts, Executries, Powers of Attorney and general private client work. Adie Hunter had a substantial client base of small, medium and large businesses. They established a name for doing relocation work for relocation companies dealing with employees of major UK employers eg. banks and supermarkets. They also had developed an expertise in dealing with electricity servitudes.

In November 2017 Mitchells Roberton undertook a further merger, this time with Kerr Barrie, another long established Glasgow law firm, which can trace its history back to 1813. The firm was founded in Glasgow by John Kerr, originally a native of Ayrshire who, according to contemporary sources, was brought up to Glasgow “while yet a boy” and, in another example of serendipity, was entered as a clerk in the office of James Hill, one of the founding fathers of Mitchells Roberton.

It says much of John Kerr’s long practice in the law that it was only in 1878 that he assumed as a partner William Barrie (the first Mr Barrie – there being three altogether over the next 100 years), and the firm changed its name to Kerr & Barrie, subsequently becoming Kerr Barrie & Goss in 1930 and then, in the mid 1970s, following amalgamation with Aitken Hamilton & Duncan, Kerr Barrie & Duncan – later shortened to Kerr Barrie.

Among the better known partners of Kerr Barrie was Sir Adrian Shinwell, at one time President of the Scottish Conservative & Unionist Association (notwithstanding his other claim to fame as a nephew of Lord Shinwell (Manny Shinwell – one of the Red Clydesiders)). Adrian retired from practice shortly before the merger and the two remaining partners of the firm, Margot Manson and Martin McLellan joined us as a Consultant and Partner respectively.

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