Big Four giant EY buys NewLaw firm Riverview and pledges to ‘disrupt’ legal market

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By Thomas Connelly on

Watch out, traditional law firms

Image credit: Instagram (@merveeroglu_)

Big Four accountancy titan EY has taken a large leap on to lawyer turf today with the purchase of legal innovation outfit Riverview Law.

EY said the acquisition underlines its position “as a leading disruptor of legal services” and will “help clients to increase efficiency, manage risk, improve service transparency and reduce costs of routine legal activities.” The deal, confirmed this morning, is expected to complete in the coming weeks and will see Riverview Law revert to the name EY Riverview Law.

Wirral-based Riverview Law launched in 2012 and is perhaps best known for the design and development of Kim, an artificial intelligence (AI) platform that can, according to its creators, “provide business users with an easy-to-use gateway to legal support.” The business has also worked closely with boffins at the University of Liverpool in a bid to apply disruptive AI tech to legal tasks normally reserved for paralegals. Legal Cheek understands that the business’ virtual assistant platform is owned by a separate entity, Kim Technologies, and is not part of the EY deal.

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Kate Barton, EY’s global vice chair for tax, said: “When it comes to legal managed services, clients need access to best in cost and best in class law functions that offer the specialist tools and technologies to keep pace with the disruptive change they are facing. The acquisition of Riverview Law expands EY Law Services so that we can continue to provide these innovative approaches that can help meet EY clients’ biggest challenges.”

Karl Chapman, CEO of Riverview Law, added:

“The legal profession is going through a period of significant global upheaval. Changes in regulation, technology and most importantly customer expectation create an opportunity for a more flexible and customer-centric approach to the provision of legal services. Becoming part of EY is a real strategic fit for our team and is in line with our commitment to deliver world-class service and counsel to Riverview Law clients who are at the core of everything we do.”

The Big Four bean counter has been snapping at the heels of traditional law firms for a number of years now.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) fired the starting pistol on EY’s foray into the legal service market in 2014 after granting it Alternative Business Structure (ABS) status. A year later, the accountancy giant launched a training contract scheme with no minimum educational requirements. As part of a global network, EY now has over 2,100 lawyers across 82 countries.

As for the rest of the Big Four, PwC‘s legal operation bagged ABS approval as the start of 2014, and now offers 25 training contracts annually, while KPMG received the green light from the regulator several months later. Deloitte was awarded its ABS licence earlier this year.

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