The news of Big Four accountancy firm, EY, buying ‘disruptor’ law firm Riverview Law elicited both surprise and fear in the legal market last week and has been widely perceived as an important development within the sector. According to The Lawyer, the move by EY is to ‘scale its legal managed services offering and help its clients increase efficiency, manage risk, improve service transparency and reduce costs of routine legal activities’.
An accountancy firm cutting across sectors by acquiring a 'legal disruptor' marks what could become a new trend in the legal industry as competition continues to grow. Unsurprisingly mid-market law firms, who are particularly at risk, are seeing the move as a threat that should not be underestimated.
However, is this development as surprising as it’s being made out to be? Since the introduction of the Legal Services Act 2007, we have been witnessing a continuous shift in the legal sector, with a number of changes taking place in the past 10 years. Although EY’s acquisition of Riverview Law is the latest announcement, and turns up the heat for law firms, this could be the logical next step for accountancy firms who are looking to expand further into a lucrative market.
Nevertheless, this development certainly poses questions for mid-market law firms such as whether they can expect other similar acquisitions by EY’s competitors. More pressing would be what law firms will need to do now to ensure that they are offering their clients an equally competitive service, if not more, in terms of giving their clients access to legal tools and innovation that benefit their business needs.
The possibilities, it seems, are endless, and only time will tell what way the legal sector will go. What we do know is that law firms will need to continue to invest in legal innovation and tools to fortify the efficiency of their legal services for clients to remain competitive.