Back in 2007, Allan Rooney was a Scot in New York, setting up his own legal firm.  Now, with partner John Nimmo - a Scot in Scotland! -  they are running Rooney Nimmo,  a successful  corporate law firm with a presence on both sides of the Atlantic.

The corporate legal business was formed in 2016 through a merger of Rooney PC and Nimmo WS (which at that stage had been running for between 7-8 years independently) with offices in Edinburgh, London and New York.  Just a few months in, the young company is already expanding, with an additional base added in San Francisco at the end of 2016 and business in Germany too.

At Rooney Nimmo they describe themselves as a boutique corporate legal firm. As a small organisation in a sector full of giants their international offering means they have something distinctive on which to base growth. Their clients range from large corporates to small businesses and start-ups. Their relatively small scale means they can offer a better experience to their clients, with particular benefits for small and medium sized companies, whose business might not be prioritised by larger law firms.

Their transatlantic knowledge means they are able to offer expert advice to Scottish and UK companies looking to expand their operations into the larger US market. They are also ideally placed to support US companies investing in Scotland in particular, and more widely into the UK and Europe.

As a GlobalScot, Allan Rooney is part of a network that connects successful Scots around the world. He says, “GlobalScots are people who want to give something back and I’m delighted to be a part of that. New York business, like anywhere else, runs on connections. I can help Scots to connect in with the opportunities, being a supporting voice and an encourager.”

On a handshake

So what is the back story? Although Rooney and Nimmo both studied law at Edinburgh University and graduated just a year apart, they didn’t know each other until a chance meeting some 16 years later. Rooney was already working with his US and UK clients in New York, providing advice on US law. Likewise, Nimmo had experience on both sides of the pond and was attracting clients with interests and needs in both places. They began working together informally, on the strength of a handshake -  recognition that there was a real trust and understanding between the two.

John says, “Of course, we’ve taken some steps to formalise things, and there’s now a contract that underpins the handshake. We worked out a basis to suit our business, but the trust element is still all-important.”

“It is quite common for law firms to have a preferred partner in another country, but we have gone for an altogether closer working relationship by merging economically. It offers huge benefits. It’s like when you have building work done in your house. You can engage a plumber, a plasterer and a electrician and manage the job yourself,  or you can engage a building contractor who can oversee the whole project. We are offering our clients that kind of joined up approach. Businesses with transatlantic interests may get the best advice in the UK and also get the best advice in the US, but together this doesn’t always add up to the best advice overall. Our expertise in Scotland, England and the US means that we can offer something more valuable and more connected.

Lawyers and entrepreneurs

As well as “boutique” the other word that crops up again and again is “entrepreneurial”. Nimmo and Rooney both describe themselves as entrepreneurs. Each had set up his own business before coming together. Rooney has other business interests too in real estate and restaurants. Clearly “entrepreneurial” describes him to the core. He comments, “What it means for our clients is that we understand them and they understand us. We do a lot of work with SMEs, including start-ups. All corporate lawyers advise about risk, but we can do that in a way that makes sense to our clients.  We can really get in their shoes – see things from their perspective.

“Scotland has a reputation as a country that produces entrepreneurs. We want to be there to support, encourage and help them achieve the commercial potential of their ideas.”

International perspective

Both Allan and John developed their international vision as students, when the opportunity came to spend time abroad for a year, as part of their legal course. Allan spent a year in Austin, Texas and realised then that he wanted to work in the States. “I love the positivity of the culture here. People assume things are going to work.” John spent his equivalent year in Germany. “It was one of the best years of my life,” he offers. He then went on to study a Masters at Cornell University in New York, another hugely formative experience, so the American connection was established early on for him too.

Since 2006, Allan has been a GlobalScot, a business ambassador for Scotland. He has a long term commitment to helping others recognise Scotland’s strengths and is delighted to spread the word through his business connections as opportunities arise.  And, as he says with glee, he has enjoyed wearing a kilt to every single wedding he has been to in the US.

So what is it he believes Scotland has to offer? “There is tremendous potential in Scotland because of the level of skills available. The education system means that there is a remarkable number of skilled people available and currently those skills are relatively affordable to the US market.

“There are also particular areas of expertise – in technology, pharmaceuticals and life sciences.  The academic work in these subjects is world class and this feeds into commercial opportunities.”

Consolidation and growth

Heading into 2017 Rooney Nimmo is focusing on consolidating their new offices and developing work both in London and in San Francisco.

John comments, “Sometimes businesses are held back from crossing international boundaries by the bureaucracy and red tape. We can help businesses to see their way through that, whether they are considering investing in Scotland or looking to internationalise from a Scottish base.”

Allan adds, “The London venture has already been way more successful that we expected and helps to support what we are doing in Edinburgh and New York. Add to that our new foothold in San Francisco, with a team there with strong international connections to Europe and the far East.

“All of this is contributing to our strong transatlantic law firm.”