KPMG: “We are not trying to be a traditional law firm.”

“We are not trying to be a traditional law firm. Our approach is different, with a focus on offering our clients integrated global legal advice and solutions, where we are able to work seamlessly with existing KPMG clients who are looking for local and multijurisdictional counsel.”

The quote above, by Stuart Fuller of KPMG Australia, in today’s Australasian Lawyer is yet another great example of why law firms need to be on their guard and wary of the Big4’s re-entry back into the legal sector.


Well, here are my big 3 take-outs from Stuart’s comment:

  1. almost nobody is trying to be a ‘traditional law firm‘ – everyone is innovating and looking to reposition themselves as strategic advisors (the current Holy Grail). In short, if you want to be a ‘traditional law firm’ – unless you are really niche, which, like many, KPMG are not – then your days are numbered in my opinion.
  2. a focus on offering our clients integrated global legal advice and solutions” – what would DLA Piper, Baker & McKenzie, White & Case, Norton Rose, Deacons (just to mention a few) make of that comment? Isn’t that precisely what they would lay claim to be trying to do?
  3. but, crucially, the following sentence is the principal reason why law firms with more than 20 partners should be concerned: “where we are able to work seamlessly with existing KPMG clients“. Why? Because the Big4 get involved earlier in the advisory/transaction life-cycle than law firms have historically done, so if the law firm is only looking to advise on the law, and not act in any consultation phase (even as early as the pre-planning phase), then they are going to be in big trouble.

But that’s just my take – as always, would be interested in your thoughts, views, feedback.


“We’re serious about this,” says the head of EY’s Australian legal services

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“We’re serious about this,” EY’s head of legal services Howard Adams said

Finally, despite all protests to the contrary, the head of one of the country’s leading accounting firms has come out and said what we all know to be true – the Big 4 want in on law firm turf!

And if you doubted this, you need look no further than yesterday’s article in the Australian Financial Review (‘Big four accounting firms push into legal services‘) from which the quote that opens this post is taken and which also included the following gems:

  • “In Asia Pacific, EY has hired 206 lawyers since January last year. Sixteen of them are based in Australia, focused purely on transaction, corporate commercial and employment law.”
  • “PwC legal services – which just recruited K&L Gates’ national head of antitrust, competition and trade regulation, Murray Deakin – has about 340 lawyers throughout Asia Pacific. About 120 of these are based in Australia, of which approximately a quarter are dedicated solely to legal work.”
  • “In the last six weeks alone, PwC has hired 13 qualified lawyers to its Australian practice.”
  • “EY recently admitted a Hong Kong law practice to the EY network and expects to be open for business in HK by the end of August, after which it will target Indonesia and Malaysia. Its ultimate goal is a pan-Asia boutique law practice with hubs in every commercial centre across Asia.”
  • “KPMG Legal has an ambitious target of doubling revenue in fiscal 2016 under the leadership of David Morris, who previously co-led the Asia-Pacific corporate practice of global firm DLA Piper.”

So we now know that not only do the Big 4 want in, they also want to be Top 10 legal providers in Asia [any doubt about that? PwC is quoted as saying they are looking for revenues north of A$75 million a year by 2019].

Thanks to this same article, we also get insight into how they [Big 4] hope to achieve their lofty aims, with Howard Adams being quoted as saying:

“We’re going to market with our advisory team in health care, government, financial services, procurement and supply chain. It’s a new, more hands-on approach, to providing legal services,”

Should law firms be concerned?

Well, not according to quotes attributed to Baker & McKenzie’s national managing partner Chris Freeland. Nor Ashurst vice chairman Mary Padbury.

My own take?

If you are the Managing Partner of law firm with a pan-Asia practice, then you need to be keeping a very close eye on who your fellow partners are talking to. After all, where do you think these accountancy firms are getting their staff from?

In KPMG Australia’s case, alumni.