It has recently been announced that the accountancy giant EY have been given the go-ahead to offer legal services in the UK.
EY was granted a licence by the SRA to provide legal services in England and Wales as an alternative business structure, and intends to provide corporate, commercial, employment and financial services legal advice alongside its existing portfolio.
Following in the footsteps of PwC Legal and KPMG, EY have become the third of the 'big four' accountancy firms to be granted an ABS licence and this move will see the firm grow its global law practice. Key appointments have already been made to head up this new venture, and it is reported they will appoint a further 30 staff over the next six months.
Steve Varley, EY's UK chairman and regional managing partner in the UK & Ireland, said:
"We aren't competing with the business models of traditional law firms. We are offering something new. By working closely with other parts of the organisation, clients will benefit from our global scale, in-depth industry knowledge as well as having a single point of contact for all of their professional service needs.
"Whether advising on large transactions, employment structures or group reorganisation projects, having lawyers, accountants and other professional advisers working side by side will be a real advantage to our clients and ultimately help us to provide a better level of service."
This move is seen as controversial in the profession, with many voicing concern over potential conflict and the need for a level playing field at all costs, and there are fears that a business of this size, moving into the profession complete with its quality brand, will lure away happy clients who see the opportunity to streamline their accountancy and legal offerings.
This is an understandable concern, though I can't help but feel the market is robust enough to take a little competition.
From a recruitment perspective, I think that this is a great boost for the profession. Another multinational organisation, renowned for its training programme, competitive salaries and benefits packages, means the current Practice market has to reevaluate its offering to retain the best talent on offer. While recruitment numbers are modest now, as demand grows opportunities outside London are bound to arise, particularly in Leeds and in Manchester, which boasts the largest legal market outside of the capital.
This could still be years down the line, but with a significant pool of talent and nationally recognised law schools based in these northern cities, starting the fight for the best talent now, should be a top priority for the practice marketing in 2015.
What do you think about the Big 4's move into the legal profession? Is it creating healthy competition, or is it damaging for the sector?
Elizabeth Chappel is a recruitment consultant at legal specialists, Sellick Partnership. Elizabeth works with solicitors in the North to secure permanent appointments within the in-house and practice market.