Big Four accountancy firm Deloitte has hired a senior partner from the Magic Circle to lead its expansion into the UK legal market after announcing plans to target the sector last year.
The audit firm has appointed veteran Allen & Overy banking partner Michael Castle as managing partner for Deloitte Legal to lead its UK legal push.
Matt Ellis, managing partner for tax and legal, Deloitte north west Europe, said: “We have sky-high ambitions for Deloitte Legal in the UK, and this is why it is excellent to have someone of Michael’s calibre at the helm to build our presence and grow our distinctive suite of legal offerings."
Deloitte was the last of the Big Four to launch a UK legal business when it announced plans last year to use its technology and advisory skills to "transform legal services".
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It now has more than 60 client-facing lawyers and more than 125 other fee earners with further recruitment planed for 2019.
Globally, Deloitte Legal has 2,500 professionals in 85 countries, a geographical footprint that outstrips even the largest multinational law firms like Baker McKenzie and Dentons.
The growth of the Big Four is eyed warily by many at traditional law firms who fear the audit giants' financial firepower and technological capabilities may give them an edge in a hyper-competitive market.
Last year EY acquired UK alternative legal provider Riverview Law in a move that underlined the firm's ambitions in the sector.
EY's UK law leader for financial services Matthew Kellett said on Twitter: “So, we’ve acquired Riverview – you weren’t expecting that – watch this space – lines are being drawn.”
Deloitte's strategy is focused on providing high volume services to large companies using technology and automation and providing consulting services to in-house legal departments to improve efficiencies.
Castle said: “Deloitte Legal is ideally placed to fill the digital gap in the legal market and provide legal solutions to tackle these complexities head on.
"By drawing not only on our legal expertise, but also on our deep understanding of the latest technology and tried-and-tested ways of improving processes, we can help legal departments improve efficiencies and increase the value they deliver back to their business.”
Castle has been a finance partner at A&O for more than 20 years.
In 2016 he was one of four candidates in the running to take the managing partner role at the £1.5bn firm, losing out to corporate chief Andrew Ballheimer.
An A&O spokesperson said: "We would like to thank him for the contribution that he has made during his time here and wish him all the best for the future.”