There has been much talk in the past year that the Big Four were sniffing around the alternative legal services (ALSP) market looking for an acquisition. Many legal market watchers, including your (humble) analyst, publicly stated that they expected at least one Big Four-led acquisition into the ALSP space in 2018. That wait is now over. EY announced on August 7th that they will acquire Riverview Law, a UK based provider of both managed legal services and technology.

Legal market watchers could be forgiven for thinking the attention that this deal has received is much ado about nothing. Riverview Law, after all, is significantly smaller than many of the most well-known ALSPs. While financial details on the company were not disclosed, Riverview Law is rumored to have earned somewhere between five and ten million pounds in annual revenue last year. While that number is just a rumor, we know, from the firm’s Company House filings, that they have around 100 employees. That bit of knowledge, combined with knowledge gleaned from previous public filings, gives the revenue rumors some credibility. Compared with Axiom, which is expected to earn $360 million this year, and Elevate, which earned approximately $40 million last year, Riverview looks small. Scoffing at the deal in this manner, however, misses the point. Some deals are important because of their size. Others are important because they are accelerators – they increase the pace of change in an industry or in a segment of an industry. EY’s acquisition of Riverview could be seen in this light. Below is a quick analysis of how the acquisition may impact different sections of the legal market.