KPMG has added its name to the list of Big Four accountants ramping up their legal service offering in recent months, with a mammoth team hire from French law firm Fidal and the launch of a new legal consulting service.
News emerged today (8 February) that 145 lawyers have left Fidal to join the accountant’s newly created French legal arm, KPMG Avocats. The tax-focused team includes 26 partners, and KPMG Avocats plans to eventually grow its headcount to more than 400.
The move follows the end of a decades-long collaboration between KMPG and Fidal, with the French firm affiliated to its network until the early 2000s and later in a non-exclusive collaboration with the Big Four firm until July last year.
KPMG denied reports that the team hire had breached a clause in the termination agreement that prevented it from hiring Fidal’s partners or employees involved in the relationship.
‘On 2 July 2018, KPMG International gave a 12-month notice to terminate the cooperation agreement with Fidal,’ said a spokesperson for KPMG. ‘The constructive proposals, made to Fidal to ensure the future of their teams dedicated to the KPMG network, were rejected by the representatives of Fidal. In this context, a number of professionals have decided to leave Fidal and have expressed their wish to join KPMG Avocats.’
Despite the size of the move, the French legal elite remained unimpressed. A Paris partner of an international law firm told Legal Business: ‘We are not in the same market. They are not involved in big-ticket transactions. Where both Fidal and KPMG are good and cheaper than we are is due diligence. But frankly we don’t cross paths.’
Meanwhile, KPMG has launched a new legal consultancy service for in-house counsel. Called Legal Operations and Transformation Services, it will advise on areas including tech, flexible resources and risk management.
‘We are not a traditional law firm and we are not copying the approach of a traditional law firm,’ said KPMG head of legal Jürg Birri. ‘We focus on offering our clients integrated legal advice and technology led solutions and methodologies, in combination with a range of alternative legal managed services.’
KPMG’s legal arm employed more than 2,300 professionals at the end of last year. Birri said in May last year that it aimed to grow its headcount to 3,000 lawyers by 2021 . Last month it entered its 76th jurisdiction, opening an affiliated legal practice in Hong Kong called SF Lawyers.
KPMG’s latest announcements follow the news that Deloitte had hired Allen & Overy banking partner Michael Castle to head its UK legal arm after it became the last of the Big Four to become an alternative business structure in January last year.
For more on KPMG’s legal services ambitions, read ‘KPMG: Still not a law firm, still not being taken lightly’