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KPMG Switzerland

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Jürg Birri, Partner, Head of Legal in Switzerland/Global Head of Legal Services

Legal Partner Jürg Birri says that technology and a new generation of lawyers will have an impact on the legal market.

1) What do you see as the main points that differentiate KPMG Legal from your competitors?

We are an integrated global legal services provider, working seamlessly with businesses seeking local and multijurisdictional legal counsel. We use innovative technology and leverage wider KPMG expertise to provide business-oriented legal solutions that tackle complex client issues.

Then, it is our deep industry expertise and an integrated approach of dealing with client matters. Again, this is linked to KPMG’s structure and network. We closely collaborate with our colleagues from Tax, Advisory and Audit.

The wide-ranging client base allows us to gain experience in many business sectors.

Our people are not “just” legal experts who state facts, but they are capable of managing projects and supporting the client with regard to their business in general. Finally, we are able to bring leading edge technology to our clients as mentioned below.

2) Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?

Growth areas will be Employment / Immigration, M&A and Legal Transformation. In all three areas we not only have best-in-class experts in our team, but we experience a strong demand in the market for comprehensive advice. In an increasingly globalized economy many corporations which are operating internationally have a growing “mobile workforce”. These employees travel around the globe for business reasons and are subject to taxation, social security, and employment and immigration regulations.

In the area of M&A, clients are looking for a partner that can offer many services with a single point of contact. At KPMG all teams of Deal Advisory (Advisory, Strategy, Transaction Services, Legal, Tax, etc.) collaborate to the benefit of the project and the client’s cost. Legal Transformation – which translates to the use of technology and the introduction of automated processes – will keep everybody awake in the legal business over the upcoming years. Our profession and therefore our partners on the client side will be heavily influenced by the “digital revolution”

3) What's the main change you've made in the firm that will benefit clients?

At KPMG Legal in Switzerland, I would say there are basically three changes that clients will benefit the most from. But let me add that change always needs to happen within your own organization as well, not just on the client side.

It is then fostering the global network, a strong focus on technology and people development with regard to the so-called “Lawyer 4.0”. I can only outline again the benefits of a global network and technology. It is very convenient if you have a single point of contact who can manage cross-border questions and guarantee for a quality delivery. Technology is here to stay. So we must adapt and make the best use of it. And, I definitely see this as a great opportunity, rather than a threat.

Finally we invest in professionals who have a strong legal background, but who embrace corresponding technology in the same. We also want them to be business savvy and good at designing processes. This way our clients get an inspiring sparring partner who is able to bring holistic solutions and add value – and not just answer questions.

4) Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?

Technology changes how we work, how we perform our services and, ultimately, how we meet our clients’ needs. One of these changes could be a platform that supports collaboration, for instance. A platform of this nature facilitates more efficient in-house collaboration between auditors, tax advisors and business consultants as they work on a joint project. At the same time, it also gives clients the opportunity to contribute to the project from outside the firm and be directly involved in document preparation.
This necessitates a corresponding change to the profile of employees working in legal advisory services: In the future, they won’t only need to have the requisite legal expertise but the right technological know-how as well. Digitalization also presents new problems in the area of compliance, with data protection being extremely relevant in this regard.

5) Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business?

Sure, we recently were entrusted to implement a legal reorganisation for a pharmaceutical group, whereby all of its European subsidiaries (located in ten jurisdictions) were to be contributed by their then immediate parent to the European headquarters in Switzerland. The client didn’t have much experience with regard to Swiss law nor did it have sufficient resources to handle such a project in the various jurisdictions concerned.

Besides preparing and coordinating the actual share capital increase process in Switzerland, the legal team prepared and closely monitored an action plan as well as coordinated the actions to be taken by our foreign colleagues from the Global Legal Services Network in the various European jurisdictions concerned. A single point of contact was set up on both KPMG and the client’s side. As the project also had significant financial and tax implications, our Swiss legal team also coordinated the services of the audit and tax teams. Our team further coordinated the regulatory aspects of such a reorganization with the client’s Compliance department.

As you can imagine all of this is a lot work with many stakeholders involved. Our legal team successfully managed the project all the way to a timely completion and further followed up on the post-closing actions that needed to be carried out in the different jurisdictions involved, thereby bringing value to our client.

6) Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms - where do you see the firm in three year's time?

I’d like to hazard a guess today that the next few years will bring greater segmentation in the legal advisory business – with large-volume business offering a high degree of automation potential on the one side and specialized business requiring human thinking on the other. Plus, some market players will bring out software-based tools that can answer certain questions and therefore eliminate the need to consult a lawyer.

Apart from the digitalization I already mentioned, we also see that our clients need cross-border advisory services and would like a holistic approach that extends beyond the mere clarification of legal issues. With more than 1,650 lawyers in 75 countries, collaboration with other KPMG teams and our employees’ project management expertise, we are able to cover both of these needs extremely well.

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