"There are bigger issues - alternative legal providers, the changing demands of what our people want in terms of non-lineal career paths, the cost pressures on our clients and the demands they place on their lawyers," Baker & McKenzie national managing partner Chris Freeland said.
"That's what keeps me awake at night," he said.
Behind closed doors, however, [the law firms] are genuinely worried about the accounting firms cutting into compliance, due diligence, employment and taxation work, and mergers and acquisitions advisory particularly in infrastructure and inbound investment.
Large law firms identified the accountants as their main rivals in a recent Macquarie Group legal benchmarking survey.
Some law firms are quietly shifting work to boutique accounting firms because they refuse to be in bed with their emerging adversaries.
The Australian legal market liberalized several years, making it possible for nonlawyers to own and control legal enterprises. In contrast, India has rules that are much closer to the U.S. Yet, when it comes to the accounting firms, the official rules don't seem to matter much, as the competitive dynamics vis-a-vis big accounting firms in these two countries are very similar.
A simple explanation is that bar authorities in any country are loath to pursue unauthorized practice of law actions when the clients are multinational corporations and the providers are large accounting firms. That is too big a fight. Further, the rules on unauthorized practice are in place to protect clients, not the guild. Thus, it is not surprising that the accounting firms are getting bolder.
The chart below (from The Economist) put things into perspective:
See Attack of the Bean-Counters, Economist, Mar 21, 2015.