Accountancy giant EY has insisted it is not competing with traditional law firms as it forges ahead with its legal services expansion plan.

The firm last month announced it would establish a ‘legal transaction’ team in Manchester when senior corporate lawyers Paul Devitt and Richard Thomas join from international firm Addleshaw Goddard next year.

EY was the third of the ‘big four’ accountancy firms to be granted an alternative business structure licence by the Solicitors Regulation Authority last year.

Its UK legal services team, based in London, has since grown to 25 people, including five partners. Partners in the firm drew £727,000 a head last year.

Philip Goodstone (pictured), head of EY’s legal services practice in the UK, said the firm would ‘look to expand further’ as the business grows, but there were no ‘current plans’ to establish teams in other parts of the north-west.

Since 2009 EY has more than doubled its global legal headcount to 1,450. The number of countries with a legal presence has tripled – from 19 in 2010 to 66 in 2015. It plans to expand into more than 80 countries by the end of 2016.

EY Global Law leader Cornelius Grossmann said the firm is ‘always looking for talent in the market, including individuals, teams and entire law firms that might be interested in joining EY’.

Grossmann said EY was ‘not directly competing with the business model of traditional law firms’ and viewed the rest of the ‘big four’ accountancy firms as its direct competitors. He expected China to be one of EY’s largest legal practices within six to eight years.

Grossmann said EY would not be opening a legal practice in the US due to restrictions on external ownership, but believes its ‘global and multi-disciplinary reach is an attractive alternative for US-based clients’.