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The 'Big Four' Opening Doors

  • November 16, 2021

PWC, Deloitte, Earnest & Young and KPMG- These are the four biggest accounting firms in the world, and they are coming to take over the legal sector! Or are they? 

PWC has created a managed legal services practice to help in-house lawyers manage technology-led bulk purchasing. To do this, they employed Radiant Law co-founders, Andrew Giverin and Jason McQuillen to start the practice. Interdisciplinary services combine their skills and knowledge with world-class business consulting services, allowing them to work at the centre of every client and their business. A legal training contract with one of the Big Four means lawyers gain various skills that go beyond the legal work these accounting firms typically conduct. 

Suppose such accounting giants embrace the legal industry. In that case, it may open up a raft of opportunities for those looking to expand their professional skill set or move towards a business culture rather than one of a law firm. 

The big four accounting firms have the leverage to serve large corporate clients with the opportunity to expand their business if they become a part of the legal industry. With the introduction of the legal training requirements for employees, they are already generating multi-billion-dollar revenues from their current services in the United States. This success results from pre-employed in-house lawyers working within their risk and auditing departments prior to them entering the legal sector. 

This move by the big four comes at a time of significant disruption in the legal industry. The use of Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs) has grown substantially over the past five years as they combine legal- tech and processing efficiency to carry out large-scale legal work at the lowest cost. Unconstrained by the traditional law firm's structure and hierarchy, ALSP's have found more freedom to change business practices by placing technology at the heart of their service model.

In 2017, comments by PWC's Senior Partner Shirley Brookes suggested that the accounting firms are only interested in supplementing the service they provide to their clients. These comments were echoed by EY's Matthew Kellet, who said accounting firms would not have to 'win work from law firms. Perhaps in reliance of this, over 70% of legal leaders are not making strategic decisions to counteract the actions of the Big Four. At the same time, in the validation of Mr Kellet's comments, some seek a supplementary relationship with the accounting firms. 

While some may view the accounting firms as competitors, Joe Andrew (Chairman of Dentons) has revealed them to his firm's clients. This evidences that a specialist approach will always be needed, particularly when considering multibillion-pound transatlantic deals. Finally, this validates the comments of Brookes as the accounting firms are not seeking to become legal specialists in the near future. 

Written by Jason Connolly