The global leaders of the legal practices at the Big Four accounting firms have been frank about their goals. They claim not to have interest in the top-shelf work on either the litigation or M&A side, instead emphasizing that there’s plenty else for them to grab. Cornelius Grossmann, the top dog at EY, put it bluntly in an interview earlier this year: “Our ambitions are really to grow rapidly into the market.” His counterparts have spoken similarly. 

A look back at 2018 shows they’re backing up the talk. Asia has been a particular target, with a flurry of openings in Hong Kong and Singapore. In the U.S. both Deloitte and PwC made big splashes into the immigration law arena. All of the Big Four now have “alternative business structure” licenses that allow them to operate legal businesses in the U.K. And EY boosted its technical capabilities with the purchase of a managed services provider previously backed by DLA Piper.

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