Legal issues for the Big 4

If you ask a person in the street the question “What do the Big 4 do?”, the chances are that you’ll either get a funny look back or if the person has heard of the Big 4, they will probably say something like “accounting”.

The Big 4 are made up of Deloitte, EY, KPMG and pwc and whilst historically they had a strong accounting focus, nowadays they have a much wider remit and include many more business functions than pure “accounting”.

The legal side of business is playing a bigger part now for the Big 4 and earlier this year EY in the UK purchased Riverview Law, one of the “new breed” of legal firms.

Prior to 2012, law firms in the UK in effect had to be owned by lawyers (ie most law firms were partnerships owned by partners who were lawyers). Since 2012 though the regulators have been licensing non-traditional law firms.

Riverview Law is one of these non-traditional law firms and has built a reputation of being a disrupter in the industry due to its clever use of technology to minimise its overheads and offer clients fixed fees instead of hourly rates.

Cornelius Grossman, EY’s global head of law, was quoted as saying “This acquisition underlines the position of EY as a leading disrupter of legal services. It will provide a springboard for current EY legal managed services offerings and will bolster the capabilities that we can help deliver for EY clients”.

Whilst this expansion into legal services is good news for the Big 4, it’s not so good news for the traditional legal companies. The mid-tier legal firms especially are likely to be under threat from the expansion of the Big 4’s legal offerings.

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