The law firm, SF Lawyers, is located three floors above KPMG’s office at the Prince’s Building in Central, and is headed by lawyer and accountant Shirley Fu. She will lead a team of 20 lawyers.
The Shanghai firm will have a team of 22 lawyers when it launches later this year. Both law firms will be members of the KPMG Global Legal Services network, according to Stuart Fuller, head of KPMG Law.
KPMG had few options apart from establishing an independent law firm, owing to regulations in Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland.
“We want to expand our legal operations to meet the increasing client demand for legal services. We are not intending to be in direct competition with other law firms,” Fuller said.
Fuller said clients who appoint KPMG to carry out due diligence for their merger and acquisitions would also like the firm to provide legal and tax advice, as well as prepare transaction documents.
KPMG started to expand its affiliate law firm operations in overseas markets about a decade ago.
“Our global legal services revenue rose 30 per cent year on year in 2018, while the Asian region is up 40 per cent last year,” Fuller said.
PwC and EY have also expanded their legal services in Hong Kong in recent years while Deloitte plans to launch its legal firm this year.
Shirley Fu, principal of SF Lawyers, said the firm will deploy robotics, artificial intelligence and other technologies to help serve clients.
“We will work in conjunction with KPMG to provide clients with legal services in mergers and acquisitions, and infrastructure projects,” Fu said.
China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” will also mean increased demand for legal and consultancy services in the year ahead, said Lachlan Wolfers, head of tax technology, KPMG China.
“KPMG may be traditionally known for its auditing services but in fact we also offer taxation and other consulting services,” Wolfers said. “While we expand into legal services, we will avoid conflict of interests, in accordance with regulatory requirements. We will not offer legal consultancy services to clients who have appointed KPMG as their auditors.”
Fuller said the strategy is not to replicate services provided by traditional law firms.
“Our approach is different, with a focus on offering our clients integrated global legal advice and solutions, where we are able to work seamlessly with existing KPMG clients who are looking for local and multi-jurisdictional counsel,” Fuller said.