Danny McCance 10 Jan 2018 12:37pm

Deloitte follows rivals into legal services market

The firm has applied for an alternative business structure (ABS) license in order grow its legal services offering

PwC was the first of the Big Four to apply for the licence in 2013, which allows a firm to own its own legal business rather than operating it as a separate entity within the business. EY and KPMG then followed suit.

Deloitte said it will offer managed services and consulting services in order to improve in-house departments, alongside expanding its current legal services such as employment law, tax and immigration.

“There is room [in the market] for a lot of players and our competitors in the Big Four are already operating in this space,” said Matt Ellis, managing partner for tax and legal at Deloitte.

While the shift by the big accountancy firms into legal services does not pose a big threat to the largest law firms, smaller practices could be affected.

In a report on the future of the legal services in the UK in 2016, the Law Society suggested that services offered under ABSs would impact “lower value legal services to business”.

Firms are also more likely to be able to take advantage of ABS changes in other jurisdictions, enabling them to exploit currently closed markets.

Deloitte said it planned to invest in and integrate technology and AI to its legal offering and use "technology and advisory skills to transform legal services and help address many of the challenges lawyers, whether in practice or in-house, are facing in today’s increasingly complex legal environment,” according to Ellis.

“By automating repetitive processes and completing routine tasks in a fraction of the time, lawyers will be able to spend more time on specialist areas,” he added.

Application for an ABS license was introduced as part of the 2007 Legal Services Act 2007 to allow firms and accountants to offer probate services to clients.

ICAEW became the first non-legal regulator and licensing authority for probate services in March 2014, after the Lord Chancellor accepted its application, allowing the institute to be a regulator for firms wishing to restructure themselves as an ABS. It has since granted more than 100 ABS licenses.