If the accountants’ forays into the legal market have yet to challenge law firms in key markets, a concern in the profession is that the Big Four would make a major play with alternative service models. As such there will be some nervous glances cast as PwC this week confirmed that the accountancy giant is to launch a contract lawyering service, entering a fast-growing market so far dominated by firms like Axiom and Lawyers On Demand.
The service, called Flexible Legal Resources, will initially focus on the financial services sector but PwC’s pool of contract lawyers will eventually cover clients from all sectors providing support work for corporate, commercial and data protection.
Speaking to Legal Business, corporate partner Peter Workman, who is heading up the project alongside PwC’s chief operating officer for start-up and technology businesses, Ann-Marie Botha, said two things differentiated the product in a crowded marketplace. ‘It is PwC’s brand assurance and the quality of our people. We put them through a very rigorous screening and interview process akin to what we do for our full-time employees. We are actively building a bench of lawyers at the moment. We have been overwhelmed by demand since we launched.’
According to Workman, PwC are not putting any growth projections on the service adding: ‘It is a big growth area and it forms part of our New Law offering where we go in and try to help organisations with big legal offerings be more efficient. And we do that by deploying a range of technology, outsourcing and flexible legal resources.’
PwC also earlier this year recruited Andrew Giverin and Jason McQuillen, co-founders of pioneering boutique Radiant Law, to help build out its ‘New Law’ business.
The launch follows PwC’s recent push into the US with ILC Legal in Washington DC. The firm, which will service US multinationals in their business dealings overseas, opened last month and is led by PwC’s international business reorganisations leader Richard Edmundson.
In the UK, PwC Legal was integrated into the wider firm in September 2016 following the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s approval of an alternative business structure licence in 2014.
Accountancy groups have been expanding again globally in law in recent years but there has been a lack of progress in many core markets. However, many believe that their resources and focus on process would make the Big Four potent players in emerging legal services models like contract servicing and managed services.
For more on the rise of the accountants in law, read ‘Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Four? – Inside the accountants’ assault on law’