The Big Four’s march into Big Law territory continues as accounting giant Ernst & Young has taken over Riverview Law, an alternative legal services provider backed financially by DLA Piper.
EY’s acquisition of Riverview Law means DLA Piper has offloaded its stake in the ALSP, which focuses on fixed-fee, process-driven work through managed services, legal operations and technology offerings.
The Big Four accounting firm said that the purchase—which will create a new company called EY Riverview Law—will help it to provide a more efficient service to clients by improving transparency and reducing the costs of routine legal activities.
“Legal managed services is one of the fastest growing segments of the legal market,” said Cornelius Grossmann, EY’s global law leader. “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.
“We recognize the expertise that Riverview Law has in this growing market area, which when married with the global EY footprint and legal understanding will help drive significant opportunities for EY clients.”
Riverview launched in 2012 with financial backing from DLA Piper, which initially took a 21 percent stake in Riverview’s parent company, LawVest. That ownership stake has reduced over time to 14 percent.
A number of senior DLA Piper partners also had personal investments in LawVest, including former joint CEO and managing partner Sir Nigel Knowles—now chairman at DWF—who is non-executive chair of Riverview and held shares amounting to a 0.9 percent stake in the business. Those partners have now also sold their shares as part of the deal, The American Lawyer affiliate Legal Week has reported.
A DLA Piper spokesperson said “We can confirm that the firm has sold its minority shareholding in Riverview Law and we wish them every success in their next venture.”
DLA has, however, retained a small stake in Kim Technologies, an artificial intelligence platform that was acquired by Riverview in 2015 but demerged from the company in September 2017.
Chris Price, EY’s global head of alliances for tax, led the team advising on the Riverview acquisition and will become CEO of EY Riverview Law once the transaction is complete, which is expected to take place at the end of August.
A Manchester-based Fieldfisher team, led by corporate partner Tom Ward, advised EY on cross-sector issues across Fieldfisher’s technology and outsourcing teams alongside the rest of its M&A team. Technology partner Sam Jardine advised on technology and software matters, with Ward being supported by corporate solicitor Rachel Leigh and tax and structuring counsel Andrew Loan, who led on tax matters.
EY now has more than 2,200 legal practitioners in member firms across 81 jurisdictions. The accountancy giant has recruited a number of partners from private practice competitors in recent years, including former Addleshaw Goddard managing partner Paul Devitt and corporate head Philip Goodstone, who now serves as head of law for the U.K. and Ireland.
The news comes after Deloitte last month became the final member of the Big Four to receive an alternative business structure license, as the accountancy giants continue to make inroads into the legal services market. Deloitte’s U.K. arm also recently agreed to an alliance with U.S. immigration firm Berry Appleman & Leiden, a deal that has seen it acquire the law firm’s operations outside of the United States.