International law firm HFW launches business consulting division

08 October 2018

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.

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Robert Park on the launch of his consultancy RWG Enterprises

18 April 2019

Following a lengthy spell as a General Manager at an international materials corporation, Robert Park was keen to rediscover his inner entrepreneur. With the launch of his new consulting firm, RWG Enterprises, Park spoke with to outline his hopes for the future of the company, and how he believes his boutique will be able to challenge the market.

Robert Park commenced his career in retail, taking up a string of General Store Manager positions with companies – including Poundstretcher and The Gadget Shop – before making the 2005 move that would lead him to a 13-year stay with Morgan Advanced Materials. First taking up a role as Production Supervisor with the organisation, Park quickly worked his way to the upper echelons of the group. By 2013, he held the role of UK Operations Manager for the company’s UK ceramic core business, Certech UK, before seeing out his final four years at the firm as General Manager, leading the senior management team and strategic direction of the business.

Despite his success with the firm, however, Park found himself getting itchy feet. A change of career seemed increasingly appealing, and by February 2019, the time to take a new path had arrived.

Park explained: “I was losing the ability to to use the entrepreneurial flair that I had enjoyed in the past; the organisation was moving more towards a structured and common approach for doing things, and that made me feel restricted. I also really enjoy the troubleshooting, problem solving side of my role. However, having been in my last post for four years, the troubleshooting and firefighting was long behind me. I realised that I am really energised by tackling difficult issues or turning around things that are clearly struggling.”

New consulting firm RWG Enterprises launches

His criteria for a new career seemed to point conclusively in the direction of management consulting, and while his CV has no formal experience in the sector, Park believes his career to date has provided him with a wealth of transferable skills. During his time with Certech at Morgan Advanced Materials, he became a Senior Manager at the age of just 21, and went on to succeed in a harsh factory environment where six former candidates had previously failed to deliver results.

Later, he became the group’s youngest General Manager in its history, and was involved in the turnaround of numerous departments. He also developed vast experience dealing with a wide range of ‘people’ challenges, including re-organisation, talent development, talent acquisition and leadership development. Along the way, Park noted that he learned to deal with large, blue chip organisations such as Rolls Royce, securing major long-term contracts worth upwards of £25 million.

Now, he hopes to take that know-how and apply it to the diverse world of consulting work. Park elaborated: “I really want to be able to help organisations that feel that there is no hope or have lost faith in the business… Having been there myself I know how helpful it would have been to have someone to refer to in times of crisis… The firm will also focus on leadership development, as I spent a lot of time with the global graduate program during my corporate career… and I was really motivated to see these individuals grow and develop… helping them to find their own way through challenging situations.

New enterprise

Park’s new Derby-based consultancy, RWG Enterprises, will focus on five key operational fronts. As stated, leadership development and business rescue will be two of these areas, as well as manufacturing – where the firm will tackle challenges such as new product introduction. RWG will also offer financial advisory services and strategic business planning offerings.

While Park is understandably guarded about the firm’s initial engagements, he revealed that he has been “speaking at length to a well-known university and business school about providing mentoring and coaching support to students.” In the long-term, the aim is for RWG Enterprises to take on engagements from clients across the industrial spectrum. He added that as “the company is very embryonic”, it would be “foolish” to become too focused on target clients at this stage.

When asked how RWG Enterprises intends to differentiate itself from the rest of the pack, in an ever-more-crowded UK consulting sector, Park is undaunted by the task ahead. He stated, “I think the main differentiator is that we are small... I have operated at a very senior level for many years but I have enjoyed a very diverse background having worked in most functions within my last organisation. I also won’t take on any work or clients that I feel I cannot deliver value for, I am honest and ethical and am really motivated by seeing others become successful… The main thing I am focused on is 'can I add value' and 'can I help?'”