International law firm HFW launches business consulting division

08 October 2018 5 min. read
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While the Big Four have been seeking to expand their revenues by pushing into the legal sector, the convergence of consulting and law firms is not a one way street. As with the advertising industry, a number of key legal players are now weighing up launching consulting wings, with the latest to do so being UK law firm HFW founding a new stand-alone consultancy.

Founded in 1883 as Holman Fenwick Willan, the entity now known as HFW is a UK based law firm providing services to businesses in construction, aviation, shipping, insurance, commodities and energy. Headquartered in London, the firm has almost 600 fee-earners, including 180 partners, spread across a total of 20 offices spanning the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. As it bids to further grow its revenues, HFW has launched a standalone consulting business, which will provide consultancy services across financial advisory and management consulting landscape.

HFW Consulting’s broad offering will take in people, technology and risk & reputation, including organisational development, training programme design and delivery, talent management, assessment process design, cyber security, legal strategies, executive coaching, team building, risk, benchmarking, public relations and reputation management. According to the company’s website, HFW prides itself on its deep industry expertise and its entrepreneurial, creative and collaborative culture, while already providing consulting advice to clients on an ad hoc basis. In the face of increasing client demand, the decision to formalise the offering to focus some of its capabilities on consulting for business growth, privacy and risk management was therefore a logical progression.

International law firm HFW launches business consulting division

The business is to be led by HFW's Director of Learning and Development, Chris O'Callaghan, who has been named Director of Consulting in the fledgling advisory arm. It will initially target clients in the Middle East, Asia and Australia.

Commenting on the new aspect of HFW’s global presence, Chris O'Callaghan, expanded, "We will always help clients wherever and in whatever way they require, but we recognise that the consulting market in Europe and North America is already very mature and competitive. We see greater opportunity in the Middle East, Asia and Australia, where we think adding consulting services to our strong legal practices in those markets gives us a unique proposition."

Richard Crump, Global Senior Partner at HFW, added, "As a true sector-focused law firm, we pride ourselves on our deep industry expertise across aerospace, commodities, construction, energy, insurance and shipping. Clients know that we understand their business and their sector, and trust us to provide commercial as well as legal advice. Broadening those relationships to include consulting services is a natural next step, and means that we are even better able to provide clients with the best and most commercially effective advice possible."

Blurred lines

Major consulting firms have been exploring their options in the legal sector for some time now. In particular, the Big Four consulting and accounting firms are looking predominantly to buy their way into the market, lured by the potential yield of an annual revenue of $30 billion from legal services, were they to fully expand into the legal arena.

Recently this has seen EY acquire Riverview Law, as the professional services giant looks to edge into the coveted market, while PwC penned an agreement with immigration law experts Fragomen, as clients on both sides of the Atlantic prepare for a tumultuous period. Elsewhere, Deloitte has pledged to pour heavy amounts of investment into expanding its legal outfit, which currently consists of around 2,000 lawyers.

Understandably, this encroachment on the law scene by the biggest professional services firms is causing considerable concern among lawyers. A survey earlier in 2018 found that 69% of law firms see Deloitte, PwC, KPMG and EY as major threats to their market share, following successful forays into a host of other segments – such as consulting and advertising – by the gang of four. However, the movement is not purely one-way traffic.

As the legal industry prepares to fight fire with fire, one of the UK’s five largest law firms has also launched a new regulatory consulting business. Allen & Overy hopes to tap into a booming market, as demand for regulatory consulting surges amid a raft of changes including GDPR and Mifid II.