Law Firm Responses to the Big Four

Volume 7 • Issue 3 • March/April 2021
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Law Firms Take Note—The Big Four Have Been Busy

Highlighting key stories about the profession you may have missed

In recent years all four of the Big Four have announced offerings focused on partnering with in-house legal teams, and in particular legal operations. While the Big Four’s apparent consensus on this broad pursuit is itself noteworthy, there are nuances and differences between their apparent strategies.

KPMG made headlines in October 2020 when the firm announced the launch of its new “legal department transformation” line of services. The “transformation” of legal departments is a motif that appears across all the Big Four’s framing of their legal operations services, often through some combination of technology, talent, and process. KPMG’s new offerings are presented as global in scale. “I believe KPMG’s Global Legal Operations Transformation Services teams are ‘global,’ both in terms of the geographic coverage but also the strategies offered,” says KPMG international head of Global Legal Services, Stuart Fuller, in the company’s press release. “Practice leaders are senior, experienced, and work together in KPMG firms across Europe, the Americas and the Asia Pacific region.” In a Law.com article published the same day, Eric Gorman, a principal at KPMG and the U.S. head of its Legal Operations Transformation Services, emphasized the timeliness of the services and the need for corporate legal departments to embrace changes through process and technology—signaling that this line of services will be available to U.S. clients.

All four of the Big Four have announced offerings focused on partnering with in-house legal teams.

More recently, in March 2020, Deloitte announced it had hired Bob Taylor, former Liberty Mutual vice president and senior corporate counsel for legal ideation & transformation at Liberty Mutual, as a Boston-based managing director of its Legal Business Services team to focus on “the business of law and legal department transformation, specifically through the advancement of legal operations and building the legal business services model of the future.” (For commentary from Taylor on establishing quality metrics for regulatory reform in the legal profession, see “In the News” from our last issue of The Practice.) In an interview with Law.com, when asked why he was leaving his in-house role for the Big Four, Taylor indicates that in the Big Four he will have the opportunity to provide a service critical to in-house legal departments across the board. “It was a bittersweet decision because I loved my experience at Liberty Mutual and they’ve been great to me,” he says. “But I saw what was going on in the marketplace just like you’re seeing, and the need for this type of managed legal service program is vast.”

In May 2019, PwC announced it was taking another interesting approach to in-house legal department transformation by partnering its NewLaw teams in Australia and the United Kingdom with legal technology provider LawVu to assist in-house legal departments with their legal operations functions. “Legal operations platforms like LawVu are a critical part of the broader legal tech ecosystem for a fully digitised legal function,” Jason McQuillen, then a partner at PwC UK and part of its NewLaw team, said in the company’s press release. “We are finding that our clients are looking for a single view of their function across matter management, spend management and the like, and LawVu allows them to do that.”

 

EY is no exception to this trend of Big Four firms seeking to partner with in-house legal departments and legal operations. In June 2019, EY finalized its acquisition of Thomson Reuters’s legal managed service business, Pangea3, as part of a strategy to better assist in-house legal departments. “In addition to reducing costs and driving efficiencies, legal departments recognize that the future lies in aligning closely with broader business transformation,” said Jeff Banta, EY Global Law coleader, in a press release. “Through the acquisition of Pangea3, EY Law services are well positioned to leverage broad professional services experience to create a consistent, market-leading offering across the globe that will shape the legal functions of the future.”

Collectively, the Big Four seem to have gotten the message from clients that they want more efficient legal functions for lower costs. As we see in “Everyone’s a Law Company,” this is perhaps foremost among the goals of legal operations professionals—many of whom are not themselves lawyers. Time will tell if and how this legal operation strategy factors into the Big Four’s broader aspirations in the market for legal services.

Law Firm Responses to the Big Four Volume 7 • Issue 3 • March/April 2021

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