To say it hasn’t been a great week for the accountancy-tied firms would be an understatement.
The German legal arms of both PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Ernst & Young (EY) are collapsing before their very eyes, while in the UK, KLegal’s James Hodgson has finally called it a day at the firm he founded four years ago. Word is that many more, if not all, of KLegal’s legacy partners have their CVs with recruiters.
In Hodgson, KLegal has certainly lost an effective marketer whose faith in the multidisciplinary partnership vision remains unshaken despite recent traumas. In the early days, he turned many a doubter into a willing recruit – talented individuals such as Mark Haftke (now at Hale and Dorr), Philip Burrows and Chris Hoyle. Since then, however, Hodgson has slowly slipped from the limelight.
The arrival of the very affable Nick Holt in 2000 signalled the end of the figurehead role Hodgson had adopted. Hodgson was closely involved in the tie-up with McGrigors, but sources say the power shifts that followed were a bitter pill to swallow. No doubt he held hopes for a place on the (unelected) executive body that comprises Holt, Scottish partner Colin Gray as chief operating officer and three practice area leaders from McGrigors. Tales also abound of a clash between Hodgson and one particular senior Scottish partner.
Even before Enron and Sarbanes-Oxley, the appeal of leveraging off KPMG’s client base seems to have been less of a priority for McGrigors than ramping up its London presence and tapping into an international network of law firms. With long-established income streams of its own, it is not difficult to understand the McGrigors line.
Sources say that Hodgson’s own line of thinking is far more in tune with that of the EY Law Alliance, now rebranded as EY Law. (Ironically, he could have ended up part of the UK practice now sitting on the fence over this very strategy: Hodgson arrived from Arnheim Tite & Lewis, then the associate law firm of PwC, before partners Christopher Tite and Mark Lewis left to set up EY.)
What EY Law is seeking to do is get closer to EY’s non-audit services such as tax, corporate finance and corporate restructuring. As the German experience bears out, it is not suiting everyone. But after lagging behind the other accountancy-tied firms, EY is now making the boldest move.
The original KLegal, on the other hand, is no longer with us. KLegal is dead; long live McGrigor Donald.