Short answer, yes.
This has been the big question this past week, after EY purchased a UK based Legal Service Provider, Riverview.
There have been more than a few takes, in many different directions, but I found the last paragraph of Mark Cohen’s take to sync with my own experiences, which I’ll explain later.
The functional definition of “legal services” has changed in recent years, and so too has the critical question of “who does what?” in the legal supply chain. Legal practice is shrinking as the business of law (legal delivery) is expanding. EY and its Big Four compatriots have wide, deep, ties to the C-Suite and procurement departments. Their demonstrated delivery capability and technological prowess, coupled with their vast scale and resources, are differentiators in an increasingly client-centric, value driven, and delivery-centric legal market. It is against this backdrop that the Big Four’s role in the global legal market—and EY’s acquisition of Riverview—is best considered.
So here’s my layman thought on the matter. I met with and trained quite a few people working in the Big Four firms over the years I worked for software companies. In unofficial conversations where we would maybe get together for a drink, or over lunch, I got to swap stores, talk shop, and generally hear quite a bit about the details of what they were doing when it came to processing and searching data. I remember many times walking away from those conversations thinking that they were dealing with datasets and doing things in the investigations and eDiscovery space that no law firm could possibly do. That very few legal vendors could do. They were building their own tools, and working with mountains of data that I couldn’t even fathom being responsible for from my perch in law firms. And then they were integrating all of that into the data they already had on their customers from their accounting, audit, and other work to provide insights that no one else could.
As they move into the legal services field with purchases like this, and continue to hire more lawyers to actually provide the practice of law, you better bet your ass they are coming for all of us.
Adapt, or die.