Epstein Becker Green and Deloitte have formed a new and unconventional alliance, as top law firms gird for increased competition with the Big Four accounting companies.
Through the alliance, the law firm and Deloitte’s fast-growing legal division will offer employment law and a variety of workforce management services to clients, according to an Epstein Becker Green announcement.
The alliance will be able to address every type of issue “that touches an entity’s workforce, wherever that workforce may be deployed,” according to the firm.
Through the alliance, an Epstein Becker Green spokesperson said the firm will be able to provide “joint service offerings” that include advice on global reorganizations, mergers and acquisitions; compensation and benefit plan designs; global employment policies; and issues surrounding the use of artificial intelligence in the workplace.
The new partnership arrives as firms are increasingly competing with the Big Four for clients in some international jurisdictions where the accountancies are allowed to offer legal services. Though the Big Four are not allowed to practice law in the U.S., there are concerns that they may eventually find their way around such prohibitions.
Allies in Legal
Though Deloitte and Epstein Becker Green have had “a history of collaboration and relationships” for many years, talks about a formal alliance were first broached by Deloitte last fall, said the firm’s chief operating officer, Steven Di Fiore.
“Deloitte sought a well-recognized, client focused workforce management law firm for its clients with U.S. needs and Epstein Becker Green fulfilled that need,” said Di Fiore, who worked from 1988 to 1998 at what was then called Deloitte & Touche. He handled auditing and accounting services there for clients that included Sotheby’s Holdings, Inc., and Marsh & McLennan.
“During the process, we pulled together teams from different parts of our organizations to explore how the alliance could best address any workforce related issue, anywhere an entity’s workforce may be deployed,” Di Fiore said of the firm’s discussions with Deloitte.
The key to a successful deal was making sure that it served both sets of clients better, according to both Di Fiore and David Garland, chair of Epstein Becker Green’s national employment, labor & workforce management steering committee.
Epstein Becker Green, which boasts an employment, labor and workforce practice group of about 200 attorneys, has long handled workforce-related legal matters in the U.S. for foreign-based companies.
Now the firm will be able to refer existing clients to Deloitte for overseas legal work. And on the other side, Deloitte will be able to introduce its clients seeking U.S. assistance on employment and labor matters to Epstein Becker Green, as the “preferred provider” of labor, employment, and workforce management services in the U.S. for Deloitte Legal, said Di Fiore.
The firm isn’t ceding any autonomy because of the new relationship with the Big Four behemoth, said Garland. “Epstein Becker Green is and remains an independent law firm,” he said.
Bridging the Gap
Global Managing Director for Deloitte Legal, Piet Hein Meeter, said in a statement that the new partnership enables Deloitte to “bridge a critical gap in the U.S. market.”
“The alliance brings together Deloitte Legal’s global reach and the strength of its multidisciplinary business approach with Epstein Becker Green’s U.S. labor and employment attorneys and workforce management experience to form a global delivery model,” he said in a statement.
At first blush, the alliance could be seen as a smart, forward-looking idea that’s also a “win-win,” said Susan Hackett, CEO of the consultancy Legal Executive Leadership and former general counsel of the Association of Corporate Counsel.
“It’s a great first step for the firm and Deloitte to work on a collaborative relationship,” said Hackett. “This creates an opportunity to see if there are other ways that they can work together.”
The Big Four are often viewed as competitors for major law firms, but Deloitte has made potential firm rivals its business partners before.
Last June, for example, the immigration law firm Berry Appleman & Leiden sold its non-U.S. offices to Deloitte Global. The firm entered into an alliance with the British arm of Deloitte, giving the firm access to Deloitte’s worldwide customer base.
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(Updates with quotes from law firm consultant, paragraphs 15 and 16.)