Ernst & Young expands legal services abroad

Ernst & Young is acquiring Riverview Law, a London-based provider of legal services, expanding the Big Four accounting firm’s global presence in the legal profession.

The deal, which was announced last week in the U.K., is expected to extend the existing EY Law offering, while adding extra talent who specialize in legal innovation and operating model transformation. Riverview Law’s technology practice uses software from Kim Technologies to deliver legal services, and the deal is expected to help buttress EY’s technology approach to legal managed services. Riverview Law will become known as EY Riverview Law once the acquisition is completed, which is expected to be at the end of the month, subject to closing conditions.

The acquisition was led by EY global head of alliances for tax Chris Price, who will become CEO of EY Riverview Law when the acquisition is complete. He will work closely with Riverview Law’s existing leadership team to bolster EY’s approach to legal services to serve clients globally.

“There is a need for a greater range of service options in the legal market that provides the right service, with the right quality, at the right price to the legal functions of EY clients,” Price said in a statement. “I have yet to meet a general counsel function that is underemployed, so providing a simple mechanism to assess tasks, assess the requisite skills to achieve those tasks, and allocate internal and external advisor skillsets appropriately while helping the legal function to drive the maximum value and service quality is what we will seek to do. The acquisition of Riverview Law will help enable the creation of an EY service offering focused on doing just that.”

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Ernst & Young ranked third on Accounting Today’s 2018 list of the Top 100 Firms, with $13 billion in annual revenue in the U.S. Globally, EY reported $31.4 billion in revenue for fiscal year 2017.

While accounting and auditing firms traditionally avoid practicing law in the U.S., many firms do provide legal services abroad. Even in the U.S., many firms offer related services such as litigation support. However, the deal is mainly expected to affect EY in the U.K. and other countries where it is allowed to practice law. The EY Law unit now has more than 2,200 law practitioners in member firms across 81 jurisdictions.

PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG also have their own legal services arms known as PwC Law and KPMG Law, respectively, while Deloitte recently applied for a license in the U.K. and announced an alliance of Deloitte U.K. with the U.S.-based immigration law firm Berry Appleman & Leiden. Last September, PwC opened a separate law firm in Washington, D.C., known as ILC Legal that specializes in providing multinational companies with services such as corporate restructuring advice.

“The legal profession is going through a period of significant global upheaval,” said Riverview Law CEO Karl Chapman in a statement. “Changes in regulation, technology and most importantly customer expectation create an opportunity for a more flexible and customer-centric approach to the provision of legal services. Becoming part of EY is a real strategic fit for our team and is in line with our commitment to deliver world-class service and counsel to Riverview Law clients who are at the core of everything we do. As part of EY, we will have even greater resources to help them drive business outputs from their legal inputs. Put simply, we are excited by the next stage in our journey. We believe that the combination of the Riverview Law operating model, operating platform and people, alongside the EY brand, EY clients, existing legal services offering and global scale is a winning formula for the legal market.”

Ernst & Young offices in Melbourne, Australia
Signage for Ernst & Young LLP is illuminated atop the company's building in Melbourne, Australia, on Friday, April 28, 2017. Australia has some of the world's largest reserves of fossil fuels but is running short on gas. That's raised the prospect of widespread power outages and stoked a national debate over energy policy. Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

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