Falkirk law firm Russel + Aitken celebrates 200th anniversary

Staff at Russel + Aitken are celebrating a landmark year
Staff at Russel + Aitken are celebrating a landmark year

With so many stories of companies – including some big names – struggling to survive in the current climate, there’s one local firm that’s certainly bucking the trend as it celebrates its 200th anniversary this year.

Staff at Falkirk legal practice Russel + Aitken are marking two centuries of the partnership, which still bears the same name as it did when it was founded and continues to run from the same offices in Kings Court.

In 1818, James Aitken, who had been practising in Falkirk since the 1790s, died and his son Henry was too young to continue the business.

Aitken’s widow therefore arranged for James Russel, her husband’s former apprentice, to take over with Henry to be taken into the partnership when he was qualified – and so the firm of Russel + Aitken was 
founded.

Archive records from the time state that the firm was equalled “by at least no other provincial business in Scotland”.

Over the years the legal practice remained solely in the hands of the families of Russel and Aitken until the 20th century brought in fresh blood, including the Nimmos who were related to the Russels.

In 1931, Thomas Alexander Ross arrived giving over 60 years of continuous service apart from a few years during the war.

Since then other names to join the firm have included Charles Thom, Dan Harrison, Sinclair Ross and William Anderson.

Although the legal firm has retained its presence in the original buildings in Falkirk town centre, it has expanded in the last two centuries.

After the Second World War, Russel + Aitken took over a practice in Edinburgh, which remains today, and in the 1970s the firm amalgamated with Alexander Hendry & Son in Denny.

There remains a presence in Denny, as well as the firm now also having a premises in Alloa and Glasgow.

An exact anniversary date for the founding of the firm is not known, but Karen McLachlan, current partner at Russel + Aitken in Falkirk, said the team was marking the occasion throughout the year.

She’s delighted that the firm can celebrate 200 years of history, which is not something that many businesses can achieve.

Karen said: “It’s incredible coming to work knowing that you’re walking the same corridors as our forebearers did 200 years ago.

“It’s very unusual for a firm to retain a name for so long, but even more so for it to still be working from the same premises.

“There are challenging and tough times in business, but there must have been tough times before and yet after 200 years Russel + Aitken is still here.

“We just have to do what our forebearers did and find ways to work through it. They must have had their own challenges – including two world wars – to get through, which puts your own things into perspective.”

And although life will have changed in the last two centuries, never mind the improvements in technology, Karen says some thing very much remain constant.

“The ethos of the firm hasn’t changed,” she said. “It’s still about doing our best for our clients.

“It’s still a family firm, and there’s not really anything that we can’t help clients with, from cradle to the grave.

“One thing that’s been said is that the name Russel + Aitken means something. There’s a strong reputation associated with the name.

“We still strive to do the best we can and to provide the best service we can for our clients. It’s important to us to maintain that quality and standard.

“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the clients that we have and we certainly won’t take for granted that we will be here in another 200 years’ time.”