Law firms may have little to fear from the return of the big four accountancy firms to the professional services market, Law Society head of city and international Stephen Denyer told the session ‘Episode VII: the accountants strike back’.

Denyer said he had seen first hand how previous assaults by the accountants played out. He suggested that the accountants are again gaining ground in the legal market globally and will continue to do so. Regulatory barriers are not going to halt their advance - nor should they since competition is a good thing.

Instead the limiting factors will be:

  • Clients not wanting to put all their eggs in one basket.
  • Commercial (rather than technical) conflicts.
  • The best law graduates still wanting to join a top law firm not the big four, so the pool of legal talent in an accountancy firm will be constrained.
  • Legal services can generally be sold at a premium compared with audit services - but if the both come from the same provider clients will expect to pay the same (lower) rates for both.
  • The global tax and regulatory systems are a mess, making it hard work building and running a global multidisciplinary partnership.