The Canadian law community woke up this week to the news that Conduit Law – a company that Canadian Lawyer describes as a “disrupter of traditional legal services on Bay Street – has been purchased by Deloitte, the professional services firm that offers audit, tax, consulting and financial advisory services to clients.
Deloitte’s press release on Marketwired says, “The newly formed Deloitte Conduit Law LLP will offer outsourced lawyers to support in-house legal teams, meet business needs on-demand at law firms, and deliver short-term projects or special engagements.” It goes on to quote Heather Evans, Deloitte’s Managing Partner, Tax, as saying that “as the legal market continues to undergo unprecedented change, Deloitte is investing in new models through affiliated law firms to address the evolving legal requirements of clients.”
In an item entitled “Deloitte’s growing presence in the Canadian legal marketplace,” Yves Faguy, senior editor of the Canadian Bar Association / l’Association du Barreau Canadien (CBA/ABC) National observed that “Conduit Law […] has always prided itself on taking a client-centric approach, offering value-based billing and avoiding the billable hour business model. What’s more, the firm has cut back on overhead by having most of its lawyers work out of their clients’ offices.”
Faguy noted that the acquisition of Conduit Law by Deloitte “comes on the heels of Axiom’s acquisition of Cognition LLP, another champion of value-based billing.” He urged traditional law firms to “take note.”
Not in the USA
The news was noted south of the border as well, although the Accounting News Roundup pointed out that Deloitte’s CEO in the US, Cathy Engelbert, has said, “Deloitte cannot practice law in the United States, given our other businesses and how we are regulated. Therefore, we have no plans to enter into the legal market or to compete with law firms here in the US.”
It is not clear to me how the relevant regulations in Canada are sufficiently different to permit this transaction in Canada but not in the USA. At the time of this posting, Deloitte has not responded for my request for clarification on this.
What do you think about this new development in the legal landscape? Let me know your thoughts on this – or any other – matter, either in the comments below or directly via email.