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Juerg Birri

Global head of Legal Services KPMG Global Legal Services, Juerg Birri explains how the practice is disrupting the legal profession and delivering meaningful change for clients.

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

In today’s complex business environment, organizations need more than just good lawyers, they need business-savvy legal advisors. Our clients want legal services tailored to their unique priorities, challenges and needs and they want the convenience and efficiency of working with a global network like KPMG. Our practice of more than 1,650 lawyers across 75 member firms can advise clients on all aspects of their business across borders in virtually every area of law.

Our multidisciplinary approach to client work is a clear point of differentiation from traditional law firms. KPMG’s Global Legal Services practice is supported by a large global network and these integrated teams from Legal, Tax and Advisory regularly work together to deliver tailored and insightful legal advice. With our deep insights, our lawyers act as strategic advisors, collaborating to develop innovative approaches that address business-critical issues.

The other key differentiator is our use of technology. Technology is rapidly transforming the work of lawyers and this is a fundamental part of our global growth strategy and our ability to deliver value to clients. KPMG’s Global Legal Services practice continues to invest in the latest enterprise technologies, including cloud-based collaboration and artificial intelligence, to help deliver more efficient client-focused legal strategies.

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

Our legal practices are experiencing unprecedented growth across a range of traditional legal service offerings, including corporate and commercial, M&A, group reorganizations, compliance, employment, immigration, global entity management and financial services regulation. Many of these services have a natural overlap with other functions within KPMG, and our global connectivity helps support strong collaboration across these areas. For example, with the recent implementation of GDPR, we have seen many opportunities for the legal practice to work with colleagues in Advisory in new ways to support clients in developing effective strategies to manage client data privacy issues. In addition, we see growth in employment and immigration legal services due to our collaboration with KPMG’s Global Mobility Services Tax practice. Businesses we serve see the value in having one provider to manage a range of services related to their globally mobile workforce needs in a holistic way.

We also see high potential for growth in the area of legal transformation. In-house Counsel and Chief Legal Officers face a growing range of risk, compliance, governance, operations and regulatory issues. They are challenged to deliver on this growing mandate, to provide practical legal advice to support day‑to‑day business activity and proactively and collaboratively engage with their key business stakeholders, all while managing new technologies, budgets and growing headcounts. As a result, many legal teams need to transform their current operating models. In this new legal transformation offering, KPMG member firm legal practices can provide guidance to identify, assess and implement technology and associated process improvement initiatives to help In-house Counsel automate activities, reduce waste and enhance efficiency.

What’s the main change you’ve made in the firm that will benefit clients?

Our legal practices are investing heavily in new talent and over the last year we’ve seen new partner hires across key jurisdictions including, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Hungary, the UK, Spain and Switzerland, to name just a few. We hire forward-thinking, passionate and tech-savvy lawyers, across all areas of our legal businesses to deliver meaningful change to our clients.

We strive to continuously expand our legal services offering to offer a wide-range of services to clients. In addition, we are continuously seeking to expand our geographic reach to strategic locations to better support our clients cross-border needs.

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

As described above, we see that the responsibilities of General Counsel are going beyond the traditional risk and compliance roles they’ve had in the past. I believe technology will be the biggest factor to influence the legal profession today and in the years to come. This has to be achieved with fewer resources and greater efficiency than ever before. More and more, General Counsel are aiming to incorporate technology solutions into their departments and daily processes in order to provide CEOs and boards with efficient and innovative solutions for addressing legal challenges and uncovering opportunities for the businesses they serve. As a disruptive challenger legal brand, we have to be at the front of the legal tech revolution, that’s why technology is a key factor in our global growth strategy.

Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms – where do you see the firm in three years’ time?

The role of In-House Legal Counsel is changing, creating both challenges and opportunities. With clients facing risk, compliance, governance, operations and regulatory issues, our multidisciplinary teams are equipped to provide a range of services to solve clients most challenging legal and business issues. By truly understanding the business of our clients and with the benefit of the firm’s wider knowledge and appreciation of the markets in which they operate, we are able to provide a better picture of the strategic landscape and the options available to clients from a legal perspective.

I also see new technologies and streamlined processes increasing the efficiency of lawyers, freeing up their time to engage in higher-end strategic legal work. There is no doubt to me that our legal practices will also continue to expand in term of size, scope of services offered and geographical reach.