The Dublin branch of 'Big Six' accountancy firm KPMG has recruited a solicitor and a barrister to head a new department which will make further inroads into the legal market.

Solicitor Caoive Collins and barrister Michael O'Toole are to be in charge of the new Corporate Legal Advisory Services (CLAS) department, which replaces the Company Secretarial Services department.

The department will have around 20 personnel, all of whom have a law background, either holding law degrees, studying for the Bar or having passed company law exams.

The move follows rumours in Dublin that KPMG was head-hunting lawyers to establish a law firm, but a spokeswoman for the firm has denied that there were any such plans.

The issue of accountancy firms encroaching on the legal market is a hot topic in Ireland at the moment. An Irish Law Society working party on the future the country's legal market is looking hard at multi-disciplinary partnerships.

The society rejected the formation of multi-disciplinary practices (MDPs) in 1991 when its council last voted on the issue.

Robert Barker, tax partner who has overall responsibility for the CLAS initiative in the KPMG, said: “CLAS will work in the same areas as the old company secretarial department but with more legal expertise.”

He described the move as a “medium-sized step into the legal market”.

He said: “In the long-term the Big Six in Ireland will go the way of the UK and set up law firms. If the other firms did it in Ireland, we wouldn't want to be left at the post.”

Barker added: “The appointments of Collins and O'Toole boosts our internal legal expertise and the new redefined department allows us to offer fuller services at a higher level.”

He said that the CLAS would deal with a broader base of legal services than the secretarial department which concentrated on company law, restructuring and company formations.

He said the department's legal capability was not designed to compete with local law firms, but would give added benefits to clients, although he did describe the move as a “defensive” one.

Collins comes from Brussels where she worked in fund management for Robert Fleming merchant bank. O'Toole returns to KPMG having worked most recently for Shannon-based firm International Aircraft Service.