KPMG appointments reveal legal intentions

KPMG has stepped up its efforts to move into the legal market by putting newly-appointed deputy senior partner Roger Dickens and Mike Rake, UK chief operating officer, in charge of legal team development strategy.

The two have initiated preliminary talks about an alliance with several law firms, believed to include Norton Rose and Eversheds.

Peter Cole, Eversheds senior partner, last week told the magazine Accountancy Age that his firm would look seriously at an approach from a big six accountancy firm. But it is thought Eversheds may have ruled out a tie-up with KPMG.

Norton Rose's position in the M5 group, an alliance of six leading regional firms, including Wragge & Co in Birmingham, could give KPMG a national network of law offices that would support its regional accountancy offices. But Norton Rose might have difficulty persuading all members to go along with any alliance.

The moves by KPMG are an indication of the pressure it is under from its continental partners to form a UK legal practice. It is believed Ian Barlow, the firm's head of tax, was previously charged with developing a strategy to form an associated law firm. But pressure from KPMG's continental partners, particularly in France, where KPMG's associated law firm is Fidal, has led the UK partners to give the strategy a higher profile.

Dickens and Rake were appointed last October as part of a management shake-up designed to be fully implemented this summer to give greater central control to the firm's network of regional offices. It is currently run through a board and five regional operations centres.

Fidal has an association with Stephenson Harwood under which work is referred to each other and lawyers are seconded from each firm. It has long been thought that KPMG would seek a close alliance with Stephenson Harwood. But it appears that this option is not on the cards for either side.