Interview with: Kathleen De hornois, Managing Partner, Deloitte Legal – Lawyers

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Kathleen De hornois became Managing Partner during the pandemic and gives her views on the company’s recent developments

What do you see as the main points that differentiate Deloitte Legal – Lawyers from your competitors?

Without a doubt our ability to offer end-to-end compliant business solutions. When conventional law firms speak about offering multidisciplinary advice, they really mean multidisciplinary legal advice. When we say multidisciplinary advice, we offer the real deal since we can liaise, when required, with our counterparts within the relevant Deloitte Business Unit or Service Line, like Risk Advisory for instance. Together, we offer a holistic view which allows us to come to the best workable and legally sound solution for the client.

The fact that we ‘cohabit’ with all of our closest non legal advisors greatly facilitates this teamwork and enables us to offer our clients a comprehensive helicopter view of the different issues at hand and propose clear action plans. Clients gain in efficiency and interpretation risks are mitigated, along with the inefficiencies inevitably linked to several separate teams being called upon.

When compared to the other Big Four, we have more than 20 years of experience coping with the challenges specific to law firms within the Big Four environment and have attracted a number of truly eminent people to work for our firm. Indeed, of the four, we are the only one to have kept a dedicated legal offering in Belgium.

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

I predict growth first of all for our M&A practice thanks also to our increased focus, both Deloitte-wide and specifically within Financial Advisory, on end-to-end M&A. With the current uncertainties due to the war in Ukraine, we also predict a demand to advise on shifts from international to more local production, in line with the reflection on lessening our dependency on international trade.

Next to this, climate change challenges and related legal impacts remain a burning platform. All these trends create opportunities for legal advice and, more specifically, for real estate and infrastructure projects, as well as for employment law for restructurings.

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

These last two years have demonstrated that it is possible to rapidly change entrenched ways of working, and that we adapt more easily than we thought possible. Indeed, it’s fair to say that the legal profession has changed more from a technological point of view in that short timeframe than it has in the past decade. One of the benefits of this fast-track has been increased reactivity for reasons ranging from the increased acceptation of email versus hard copies and e-signatures to the elimination of travel time thanks to Teams and Zoom meetings. This change has also translated into less formal and expeditious exchanges, which have greatly speeded up correspondence and enhanced the overall management of the matters in question. It is this sense of speed and openness to change that we must now further build on.

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

To benefit our clients and capture the benefits of this openness to change, we are now also offering Legal Management Consulting, which drives efficiency in legal departments and contract areas through the introduction of more systematized ways of working, changes to the sourcing model, improved use of data and introduction of legal and contracting technologies. The time gained thereby can then be spent on real business challenges, which can in turn drive further potential cost efficiencies.

We then also looked at how we could advise clients wanting to outsource (parts of their) legal work and have outlined three so-called ‘operate’ offerings: the first one concentrates on contract management & document review. The work we perform decreases the cost of contracting, increases the quality of contracts and gives General Counsels additional insights in and greater control over their contracts. The second offering, Legal Entity Management, allows legal departments to outsource their corporate compliance, thereby achieving improved management of complexity and risk, greater control of data and insights into the entity compliance process. The third one is an intelligent staffing solution where we can provide an ideal mix of paralegals, junior lawyers and senior lawyers with a direct access to our ever-growing knowledge database.

At the end of 2020, we launched an Ecosystems & Alliances initiative that focuses on start-ups and scale-ups in legal and tax tech. We decided on this initiative because the way we do business is changing, and there are increasing numbers of small and smart specialist firms appearing that we can work with, gain in efficiency from, learn from and/or potentially support. We want to increase our knowledge and understanding, connect with key stakeholders, and become ‘the‘ recognized go to lawyers.

We strongly believe in the digital transformation of the legal profession and have started building partnerships with legal tech providers with a view to contributing to the future proofing of the legal profession.

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

I would like to highlight a case showcasing our Deloitte in-house multidisciplinary advice: our Deloitte Legal Corporate M&A team, alongside a large multidisciplinary engagement team, provided buy-side due diligence and transactional legal advice to a leading manufacturer of card & board games and digital solutions, when it acquired the United States Playing Card Company, a leader in the production and distribution of premier brands of playing cards.

This acquisition signifies a milestone for the manufacturer and strengthens its market leadership within the playing card and board games sector. As a result of the acquisition, the group will increase its turnover to approximately USD 550,000,000 and will obtain market access in all states within the United States.

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

Our strategy underpins our ambition to (continue to) be a top full-service advisory law firm, benefiting from our close and multi-disciplinary collaboration with Deloitte and Deloitte Legal, both nationally and internationally, and expanding our operate offerings to help unburden clients whilst helping them to gain in efficiency and focus. We will continue to develop our knowledge and penetration of legal and tax ecosystems and keep abreast of changes impacting the legal profession, thereby ensuring we remain a frontrunner in legal innovation.