Following the acquisition of Riverview Law by EY, a new entity named EY Riverview will expand the accountancy firm’s legal-services reach into the global marketplace. Riverview Law’s growth could lead to an increase in staff from its current 120 to as many as 3,000, to be located at offices around the world.

In case you missed this remarkable announcement: Riverview Law is a UK firm widely recognized for its innovative approach to legal practice, including such initiatives as fixed-price-managed services for in-house teams, and the use of virtual assistants. (The technology Riverview Law developed to facilitate clients’ legal work, known as Kim Technologies, was not part of the acquisition, although EY has signed a ten-year contract to use it.) EY – once known as Ernst & Young – is, of course, one of the largest accounting companies in the world.

On August 7, LegalFutures published EY’s announcement, along with a statement by EY global law leader Cornelius Grossmann, who said, “This acquisition underlines the position of EY as a leading disruptor of legal services; it will provide a springboard for current EY legal managed services offerings and bolster the capabilities that we can help deliver for EY clients.”

LegalFutures writer Neil Rose reported that the collaborative purchase of Riverview Law by a group of seven of EY’s EU offices means that the reach of the new legal-services entity will not be restricted to one country; in fact, it has a particular eye on gaining a foothold in the U.S..

A followup article on August 14, LegalFutures quoted Chris Price – currently EY’s global head of alliances – tax, who will become CEO of EY Riverview – as saying that “EY Law was not looking to compete with the likes of Slaughter and May or Freshfields for the so-called ‘bet the farm’ work – they meet ‘a particular client need brilliantly well.’ Rather, EY Law’s mandate is to integrate legal with other services offered by the wider firm and target client need that is currently not being met – such as a managed legal service.”

Price seemed unperturbed by the backlash from lawyers who are concerned about EY’s new capacity to compete with them. “Long may this view continue,” Mr. Price told Rose. “Our read of the market is that clients want something different. As long as [those lawyers] fail to see the future and react to it, they’ll be creating a market for us.”

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