Andersens' HK action sounds alarm bells

Arthur Andersen's Hong Kong office Ede Charlton has become the latest casualty of its founder. The practice has been ousted from the accountancy firm's legal network.

The lawyers in the Hong Kong office are at a loss to identify the full reasons for the break-up, although Andersens has said it happened because the two differed over strategies.

The differences between legal and accounting practices are becoming starker as time goes on. Andersens' jilting of Wilde Sapte certainly rang alarm bells in the legal profession and this latest event will do likewise.

Inevitably there are casualties when a firm changes its strategy. However, Andersens is causing ripples among law firms, with the fall-out from such events making them think again about their interest in joining such an organisation. And the issue of lawyer retention is also pertinent – many of the firms in the Andersens network have seen the departure of some key people.

Law firms are grappling with people management and how to retain good lawyers. This looks set to become even more of an issue for accountancy firms.