As states such as Utah and Arizona have approved opening up their legal marketplaces to alternative business structures in recent months, there has been speculation that the Big Four accounting firms would be among those seeking to take advantage.
Don Fancher, a principal in Deloitte’s legal business services practice in the United States, acknowledges that his firm has been monitoring the regulatory reform developments taking place in several states.
But he says Deloitte has no current plans to apply to offer direct legal services in this country as it does in other nations.
“These are issues happening in the industry that are important to our legal department clients, as well as our law firm clients, so we certainly pay attention,” Fancher says of regulatory reform initiatives in the United States. “As it relates to our own strategy, at this point, it doesn’t really impact that strategy.”
“If we see business opportunities, we will address those opportunities and pursue those opportunities,” he adds.
For now, Fancher says Deloitte is focused in the United States on growing the legal business services practice that it launched in July.
A key component of the practice is helping corporate legal departments better utilize technology, including through embracing automation of certain tasks. Fancher says legal industry clients have room for growth when it comes to contract automation and would benefit from implementing contract lifecycle management, or CLM, software.
“There’s no doubt an increasing interest in seeing how technology in that regard can create a more efficient business as usual process,” Fancher says.
Workflow management is another area in which he foresees the legal industry implementing technology to a greater degree.
“For the first time that I can recall, chief legal officers are actually willing to sit down and talk about workflow and understanding what their people do in a better way,” Fancher says.
Additionally, Fancher says COVID-19 has prompted more legal departments and law firms to turn to alternative legal services providers. For example, some Deloitte clients in the intellectual property space have been looking at outsourcing the drafting of patents, according to Fancher.
Overall, more than half of the respondents to Deloitte’s 2020 legal department strategy survey conducted amid the pandemic said they planned to increase their engagement with alternative legal services providers.
Fancher says the firm’s legal business services practice had been in the works for months prior to the spread of COVID-19, but the global pandemic only heightened the necessity of Deloitte’s consultative offerings because it “accelerated the need for transformation.”
Meanwhile, outside the United States, Deloitte announced in early November that it had acquired the law firm Kemp Little in the United Kingdom. The transaction will result in Deloitte Legal gaining 29 partners and up to 57 lawyers, according to a press release.
The law firm headquartered in London has a history of developing legal technology products, which is one reason Kemp Little had great appeal to Deloitte, Fancher says.
“It is a firm that is known to be innovative and to use technology in the way that they drive legal services, so I think it just enhances what we are doing in the U.K. from a law practice perspective, as well as a broader consultative perspective,” Fancher says.
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