Top 10 accountancy firm joins the ABS gang

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17 January 2017


Brown: real opportunities to assist our existing client base

RSM has become the largest firm of accountants outside of the Big Four to launch a legal practice with an alternative business structure (ABS) licence.

The UK’s seventh largest provider of audit, tax and consulting services – which has revenues approaching £300m a year – has hired Carolyn Brown to head RSM Legal LLP, which will target mid-tier and owner-managed businesses.

Ms Brown joins from London law firm Howard Kennedy, where she was head of employment.

RSM has 3,400 partners and staff operating from 35 locations throughout the UK, but at the moment has just six lawyers offering employment, commercial and corporate law, and “employer solutions” advice.

Ms Brown will also be working with the HR consultancy RSM bought last February, Right Hand HR.

The ABS licence was actually granted last year but RSM is only launching the practice to its clients now, following Ms Brown’s recruitment.

She said: “I look forward to the challenge of growing our client legal services practice. Middle-market businesses are currently facing a number of employment law challenges. Whether it’s change management projects or mergers, contentious employment disputes or compliance obligations or adding value through guidance to their leaders, we see real opportunities to assist our existing client base.”

The ABS’s head of legal practice is Rachel Khiara, who runs her own specialist law firm advising on legal regulation and compliance, and holds the role as a consultant to RSM Legal.

Ms Khiara said the move enabled RSM to offer “holistic services” to its clients and build “trusted adviser” relationships across all areas of advice they may need.

The plan at the moment was to expand organically based on client need, rather than look to grow by acquisition, she added. However: “This is with a view to RSM growing quite a significant service line within their business.”

Unlike the ABSs owned by PwC, KPMG, EY as well as accounting ABS pioneer Kingston Smith – which is a sixth of the size of RSM – RSM Legal is a separate entity from the accounting firm, but Ms Khiara explained that this was merely a feature of the way RSM was structured, in which each service line is a separate company.

Ms Khiara added that it would be “interesting” to see how the other firms in the top 10 would respond to RSM’s move.

David Gwilliam, RSM’s chief operating officer said: “Given our strengths in HR consulting services, our initial focus will be on providing employment law advice in addition to corporate and commercial legal advisory work. However, we fully expect to further expand our legal services practice in the future.”



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