“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.