EY makes big move with Riverview Law acquisition

Chapman: Global canvass

Big Four accountancy firm EY made a major statement about its legal ambitions today by announcing its intention to buy Riverview Law, the innovative alternative business structure.

EY said the deal would help to enhance and scale its managed services offering and “help clients to increase efficiency, manage risk, improve service transparency and reduce costs of routine legal activities”.

Riverview launched in 2012 and its business model has evolved to focus on fixed-price managed services for in-house teams, dealing with their everyday legal work using its own technology platform, called Kim, through which it has been promoting the use of virtual assistants.

Riverview set up a separate business to own and exploit the technology, and this is not part of the EY deal. Riverview chief executive Karl Chapman, one of “many” shareholders in Kim Technologies, told Legal Futures that it was “not for sale”.

Riverview combines lawyers, client managers, data analysts and other professionals to manage instructions coming into a company’s legal team from start to finish, and provides quality, risk management and dashboard tools. The aim is to allow the in-house team to focus on key tactical and strategic legal work.

Chris Price, EY global head of alliances – tax, will become CEO of EY Riverview Law once the acquisition is complete at the end of this month.

Cornelius Grossmann, EY global law leader, said: “Legal managed services is one of the fastest growing segments of the legal market. 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 recognise 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.”

Mr Price added: “There is a need for a greater range of service options in the legal market that provides the right service, with the right quality, at the right price to the legal functions of EY clients.

“I have yet to meet a general counsel function that is under employed; so providing a simple mechanism to assess tasks, assess the requisite skills to achieve those tasks and allocating internal and external advisor skillsets appropriately while helping the legal function to drive the maximum value and service quality is what we will seek to do.”

Mr Chapman said EY provided a “global canvas” for its offering, along with “the assurance, resources, scale and customers”.

“This suddenly gives us a platform to do in the next two years everything that we wanted to do over the next seven,” he said, adding that Riverview did not want to be one of those companies that developed a new market only for others to come in and take it over.

The deal developed “unexpectedly” from joint pitches the pair had made in recent months – “we realised that the combination would be a game-changer”, he explained.

Mr Chapman said the legal market was moving to its next phase, where scale was going to be important. Without this deal, “we were going to come up against a glass ceiling of size of contracts we could win”.

It also offered more career opportunities for Riverview’s 120 staff, he said.

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