PwC discusses recent developments in what is being disputed with HMRC, and also how disputes are progressing
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’
PwC will continue to spearhead the push by the Big Four accountancy firms into the global legal services market with the launch of a law firm in Washington DC.
ILC Legal will open in the US capital later this month to service US multinationals in their business dealings overseas.
Led by PwC’s international business reorganisations leader Richard Edmundson, the firm will not advise on US law but support American companies on matters relating to their operations abroad: these will include international corporate structuring, M&A support, labour, financial services, immigration, cybersecurity and data protection, corporate secretarial, tax controversy and dispute resolution.
A number of other lawyers and support staff will also relocate from the UK to work at ILC, which will operate as a separate legal entity from PwC.
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 for the firm.
Revenue at PwC Legal jumped 25% to £59.9 in 2016, but senior partner Shirley Brookes told Legal Business at the time that the strategy was not to mimic a law firm: ‘Our strategy is dead simple. It is to offer to clients a legal service that complements something that PwC is doing. We are not trying to be a standalone law firm, it has got to be that complementary offering – that is our differentiator in the market.’
PwC’s latest move will further add to the debate whether the Big Four are a tangible threat to law firms. PwC, EY, Deloitte and KPMG have all invested heavily in their legal services in the past three years, partly helped by the deregulation of the UK industry under the Legal Services Act.
The PwC global network has combined income of around $500m. KPMG generated more than £12m in the UK, while several commentators put EY’s UK revenues in the £15m-£20m range.
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’ (£)
It has been a busy week for in-house moves, with three major companies seeing significant changes in their legal teams. First up, Air France-KLM has appointed a new head of legal after a near year-long process. Pauline Baron has been promoted to head of legal at Air France after serving as head of corporate and securities at the aviation group for over two years.
Baron assumed the role in July, replacing outgoing legal head Guillaume Hecketsweiler, who left the company last October. Jérôme Nanty, Air France’s executive vice president and corporate secretary, headed the company’s legal division in the interim period.
Elsewhere, ETF Securities European regulatory counsel Marco Boldini (pictured) is leaving the company for Big Four accountancy group PwC. The former Gianni, Origoni, Grippo, & Partners lawyer, who was cited as a rising star in the 2017 GC Powerlist, will take up his London-based position as head of regulations in January 2018.
Boldini, who has been with ETF for over four years, told Legal Businessthat his hire is ‘another step in PwC building their legal capability’ and is ‘key to developing the regulatory legal expertise in the asset management industry’.
‘They were looking for someone of a senior level to build up the team and make this new offering a very credible one for the market,’ Boldini said. ‘I am very excited because PwC is a great brand which has a massive client base. It is a legal model which I am very keen to explore for them.’
Rounding off, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) head of power and renewables Julia Pyke has left the firm to join energy company EDF as general counsel for nuclear new build businesses. Pyke left HSF in June after over 15 years at the City firm, and will be replaced in her role by Matthew Job. Pyke had been the lead adviser for EDF on its planned construction of the nuclear power station, Hinkley Point C.
HSF senior partner James Palmer commented: ‘While we are sorry she is moving, we are delighted that it is to such an important client.’
See June’s cover feature for Legal Business‘s take on the legal ambitions of the Big Four accountancy firms (£)
Law firms are strengthening their European practices, with Bird & Bird, PwC and Farrer & Co all hiring in London, Kirkland & Ellis in Germany, while a Clifford Chance (CC) partner was appointed to a high-profile panel role.
James Bole, promoted to CC’s M&A partner two months ago, has been named as the new secretary of the Takeover Panel, on a two-year secondment from September. Bole is CC’s first Takeover Panel appointment for a decade. He will replace Addleshaw Goddard partner Simon Woodin the role.
Bird & Bird appointed banking and finance partner Samrad Nazer in its London office, as part of its growth plan in acquisition and leveraged finance work.
Nazer has now joined from US firm Locke Lord, where he was head of banking and finance, with particular expertise in energy & utilities, fintech and sport. He advised on both lender and borrower side, within corporate finance, corporate lending and structured finance.
Nazer said he relished the opportunity to ‘work for a more developed, international platform and have a more focused strategic direction within the banking and finance practice’, adding that he will work to develop both Bird & Bird’s banking and finance practice in London and the firm’s offices across the globe.
Tom Ince has joined PwC’s employment law team as a partner from Reed Smith, where he was deputy practice group leader of the global employment law practice and a partner.
At PwC he will lead on outsourcing-related employment matters. He said: ‘Businesses are facing unprecedented changes in their workforce, whether that is due to increased regulation across the globe or the changing nature of the workplace.’ Tom Kerr Williams joined the employment team from DLA Piper in April 2016.
Private client firm Farrer & Co has hired Rachel Mainwaring-Taylor as a London partner from Hunters Solicitors. She specialises in personal tax and succession planning, both in the UK and internationally, and advises clients on trust structures, wills and cross-border estates. She is experienced in working with international families.
Meanwhile in Germany, Kirkland has hired Attila Oldag as Munich corporate partner from Gütt Olk Feldhaus. A partner at the firm since 2013, Oldag advises German and international companies and financial investors on private equity and M&A transactions.
The latest addition to the firm’s German corporate practice, after private equity specialist Volkmar Bruckner joined from Weil, Gotshal & Manges in May, three in 2016 and Joerg Kirchner from Latham & Watkins in 2015.
Hogan Lovells is set to offer advice to through a new financial services regulatory consulting practice, hiring former PwC regulatory consulting practice director Steve Murphy to lead the business.
Aimed at dealing with regulatory finance issues arising in relation to Brexit, the practice, launched today (4 July), will provide financial services companies with comprehensive legal, regulatory strategy and compliance consultancy.
The firm said the practice is a new business model aligned with Hogan Lovells’ consultative approach, combining legal and non-legal capabilities in the cybersecurity, transfer pricing and strategic communications sectors. It will gear its advice towards asset managers, banks, building societies, wealth management firms, payment services providers and insurance companies.
Murphy has led PwC’s regulatory consulting practice since 2008 and has 25 years of experience in financial regulation and compliance.
On the timing of the launch, in relation to financial market uncertainty resulting from the 2016 EU referendum, Hogan Lovells partner Emily Reid said that Britain’s proposed exit from the European Union in March 2019, was likely to bring significant change for the sector.
The ability to provide a more complete range of services than those already provided by the firm would be crucial for clients to ‘successfully navigate the challenges ahead’.
Emily Reid, a Hogan Lovells financial services partner in London, will work closely with Murphy on the consultancy arm.
Once the chief enforcer for the City, the PwC UK general counsel discusses breaking balls and finding a silver lining to the financial crisis
‘I would never have taken a role where I wasn’t sitting at the top table. I make sure I have influence in how a firm goes about things,’ notes veteran litigator Margaret Cole, PwC’s UK general counsel (GC) and chief risk officer.
Revenue at PwC Legal has soared this financial year, from £48.5m to £59.9m, an increase of 25%. Led by senior partner Shirley Brookes, the legal arm of the accounting giant has also posted net income of £11m. Of the total revenue, £56m of that is UK fee income.
PwC Legal, which provides legal services across nine practices including corporate and banking, dispute resolution, cyber security and immigration, has seen its revenue grow steadily since the financial year 2013/14 when revenue was £42.2m.
Despite concerns that accounting firms are taking a bite out of the more traditional legal services market, Brookes is insistent that PwC Legal’s strategy is not to become like a law firm.
Brookes (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘Our strategy is dead simple. It is to offer to clients a legal service that compliments something that PwC is doing. We are not trying to be a standalone law firm, it has got to be that complimentary offering – that is our differentiator in the market.’
According to Brookes, each of the nine practice areas saw growth in this financial year, with pensions, employment, immigration and corporate restructuring all performing particularly well.
‘Our pensions practice is totally integrated with the tax practice and the actuarial practice around structuring pension schemes – they have been our standout performer in terms of growth and profitability for probably the last three years,’ says Brookes.
‘Our employment business is going really well – great growth in the last year. Immigration is one of our flagship offerings and goes from strength to strength. Immigration and our corporate reorganisation are probably our strongest networks in the PwC Legal network because they both play to the strengths of the huge geographical coverage that we’ve got.’
In June this year, PwC Legal hired former Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy partner Laetitia Costa to run its banking and finance team in London. Costa, who has over 15 years’ experience in leveraged finance, real estate and debt restructuring transactions will oversee the growth and development of the firm’s banking and finance practices.
Earlier this year PwC Legal made two key hires with the appointment of pensions partner David Farmer who joined from DLA Piper and corporate partner Thomas Colmer who was previously with Osborne Clarke.
Meanwhile, in July Big Four rival Ernst & Young appointed Axiom’s Aaron Stewart as a director to head up the launch of a legal services arm in Belfast.
According to EY, Stewart will be working with the accountant’s clients across the UK and will also be responsible for building and running a team in Belfast.
Alternative business structure (ABS) Quindell, which posted a substantial increase in revenues in its legal services division this summer, has brought in PwC to carry out an independent review on the company’s accounting policies.
The review has already commenced and will evaluate the group’s main accounting policies and expectations as to cash generation into 2015. The group is also undertaking a search for a permanent chairman and new board members but, although the company announced yesterday (10 December) it had renewed its contract with Swinton to process motor claims including legal aspects, its share price has continued to slide.
David Currie, interim non-executive chairman said: ‘The appointment of PwC to conduct an independent review is the natural next step to give additional support to the board’s confidence in the business and will also assist the company in assessing its future strategy and outlook.’
Professional services and digital solutions provider Quindell said in a statement: ‘The Board is satisfied with the overall trading performance of the Group throughout a period in which a number of distractions have been encountered, and thanks its staff, customers, referral partners and suppliers for their support during this challenging period.’
However, Quindell’s legal services division, which trades under several names including The Compensation Lawyers and Compass Law, posted a huge revenue increase in the first half of 2014 bringing in £179.6m – a 139% increase on H1 2013. The division also recruited Stefan Leon Borson as group chief legal and communications officer, who joined from Redbus Media Group where he was chief executive.
The legal department gained its ABS licence from the Solicitors Regulation Authority in December 2012, which saw the company acquire three law firms Silverbeck Rymer, Pinto Potts and The Compensation Lawyers and has since added further brands.
Dechert and PwC step into Singapore as global players sustain push into key Asian hub
This summer saw continued interest by advisers in the Asian legal market, as top-50 US firm Dechert finally received the green light to open an office in Singapore eight months after applying for a Foreign Legal Practice licence. Meanwhile, Big Four accountancy giant PwC made a move to enhance its legal offering in the Asia-Pacific region, having entered into a tie-up in Singapore with local firm Camford Law.