The U.K. firms Simmons & Simmons, Gowling WLG, and Scotland-based Brodies have pushed back against the Big Four accounting firms’ encroachment into the legal market by making senior hires from EY.

Simmons has launched a technology, media and telecoms (TMT) VAT consulting practice with the hire of EY director Joanna Crookshank, who spent 13 years at the accounting giant. In her most recent role at EY, she led its TMT indirect tax team, and she joined Simmons as a nonlawyer partner this month. 

Ursula Johnston

Gowling WLG, meanwhile, has appointed EY’s Brexit lead Ursula Johnston as its new director in customs and trade, as the firm ramps up its international trade offering ahead of Brexit. At EY, Johnston advised blue-chip clients on customs, excise and cross-border regulatory trade matters in both Europe and Asia. Over a 14-year career, she also had stints at fellow Big Four outfits PwC and Deloitte.

Scottish firm Brodies has also turned to EY to enhance its corporate tax and incentives practice, bringing in new partner Karen Davidson. Before her two years as a director at EY, Davidson spent nearly 20 years at Pinsent Masons in its tax team. 

In the U.S., Kirkland & Ellis has also countered the trend of Big Four firms raiding Big Law, having hired two tax lawyers in Dallas in recent months from accounting firm KPMG.

Big Four players Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC have in recent years been investing heavily in their legal services armsparticularly in Europe and in Asia—collectively employing around 8,500 lawyers globally as of last year. 

The narrative around the threat of the Big Four to traditional legal service providers intensified this summer after EY announced its acquisition of alternative legal services provider Riverview Law, with the company saying the deal gave it a “first-mover advantage” in the legal managed services space.