On July 13, Deloitte announced that it is launching its Legal Business Services practice in the U.S. to provide consulting and technology services for corporate legal departments. As Deloitte’s legal services had mostly been available to clients outside the U.S., this announcement means a major expansion. According to Bloomberg Law, the move may be “the most direct effort yet by a Big Four member to compete with law firms and alternative legal service providers in the U.S.” Services and solutions will include legal operating model design, contract lifecycle management, legal entity management, regulatory consulting, eDiscovery, and data governance, among many others.
Under current American Bar Association regulations, lawyers and law firms cannot share legal fees with non-lawyers or form partnerships with non-lawyers in which their shared activities include practicing law. As such, Deloitte, along with the rest of the Big Four - KPMG, EY, and PwC – cannot co-own law firms or any other operation that provides legal advice. Several states, such as Arizona, California, and Utah, may be loosening these kinds of regulations, which would generate more competition for leading U.S. law firms from the Big Four. Some say increased competition like this will create a healthier ecosystem, though U.S. law firms may want to find similar arrangements rather than compete directly.
Despite expanding its legal services globally, the U.S. has remained one of the biggest markets that Deloitte has not had complete access to until now. In particular, providing ways to improve contract management could be a major opportunity for Deloitte’s services to stand out in the U.S. market. However, as Deloitte audits top companies, it will be incumbent upon the company to demonstrate that their accounting and consulting work does not present a conflict of interest.
Mark Ross will lead the new practice as principal, with Lewis Christian and Rich Levine as managing directors. The three are each relatively recent additions to the Deloitte team. Ross joined the company in January, after over ten years at Integreon, a legal services company where he was Executive Vice President and Global Head of Contracts, Compliance and Commercial Services. Christian and Levine were brought on within the last two months from Elevate Services and Gartner, respectively.
Deloitte has been taking key steps towards this launch over the last five years, notably in 2015, when it started its Chief Legal Officer program, and last year when the company partnered with Epstein Becker Green to offer expanded employment law services.