Updated: Nov 12, 2020
CASSANDRA ACQUAH | LEGAL JARGON WRITER
Earlier in November, Deloitte’s acquisition of law firm Kemp Little was announced, doubling the size of its UK legal practice from approximately 85 lawyers to more than 170. This will involve the addition of 29 partners and 57 lawyers.
Kemp Little is a leading technology and digital media law firm and is highly-regarded for developing award-winning LegalTech products, including Dupe Killer, an AI-powered IP protection tool and 4Corners, a contract analysis system. This provides significant insight into Deloitte Legal’s strategy regarding the expansion of its technology capabilities, allowing them to offer a broader range of expertise to clients.
This move also demonstrates how Deloitte is acting according to client need following the increasing demand from its consultancy clients for an “end-to-end service” where they can also receive expert legal advice as stated by Deloitte Legal’s managing partner in the UK, Michael Castle. Although Deloitte was the last of the Big Four accounting firms (PwC, KPMG, EY and Deloitte) to establish a legal practice, launching an alternative business structure in June 2018, its tax and legal division made £910 million in revenue in the twelve months up to May 2020 which makes it the UK firm’s largest division ahead of its audit and consulting divisions.
This expansion plan has reignited the topic surrounding the impact of the Big Four’s presence in the legal sector, on traditional law firms. If considering the lawyer headcount, all four companies employ more lawyers worldwide than most law firms with PwC boasting a huge 3,500 lawyers whilst Deloitte has 2,500.
A 2015 report by the Royal Bank of Scotland warned that accountancy firms were “quietly” starting to take market share from the established mid-market law firms. Whilst some agree with this stance, others oppose it and believe that the demand for traditional law firms will always remain high, due to their long-standing reputation with clients and expertise in the market. Commercial considerations;
This provides an interesting insight into companies and what they are increasingly requiring from professional service firms. The demand for a more “end-to-end service” suggests they are wanting more value for the price they are paying- rather than receiving one service from different sources, they would prefer to go to one source and receive as much as possible.
As a client-driven industry, it is important for law firms to shape their businesses according to client need so it will be interesting to follow the development of this.
Consider the impact this will have on traditional law firms. Something significant that these accountancy firms can offer is large-scale, up to date developments in technology, which helps improve the efficiency of their work and therefore reduce costs for clients. This may spur more investment into technology from these mid-market law firms that the Royal Bank of Scotland identified. However, some of these law firms are not able to invest in such large-scale technology- this poses a great threat.
The fact that Kemp Little specialises in technology and digital media and is a known innovator, also indicates Deloitte’s strategy in wanting to expand its technology capabilities, particularly in this time where reliance on technology is becoming more prevalent.
Cassandra is an aspiring solicitor with interests in retail and media, as well as the steps being taken to increase diversity at all levels within the legal sector.
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