FOCUS ON... PWC LEGAL
G C T A L K S T O P W C L E G A L
PwC Legal is an LLP regulated by the SRA. It is also part of the PwC Legal global network, which is one of the world's largest legal networks with 2,400 lawyers in over 85 countries. A key and unique differentiator is PwC Legal's locus within the PwC International network of firms. It was granted an ABS [Alternative Business Structure] licence in the UK in 2014.
PwC Legal has been busy. Since gaining ABS status early in 2014, the legal services arm of the professional services conglomerate has had its head down growing the brand. But this well-kept secret is planning to go from strength to strength.
The firm’s philosophy is to deliver “local advice in your area,” and with, 2,400 lawyers on the ground in 85 countries, that’s local to a lot of corporates. Its largest concentrations of practitioners are in Spain, UK, Germany, France and Australia, but it has significant manpower in less well-served locales such as South America, where it has chunky offices in Brazil and Chile, and Africa, where it has 30-strong teams in both Congo and Mozambique. Shirley Brookes, senior partner in the UK, sums up the strategy: “We’ve got some really fantastic coverage in countries that other people wouldn’t.”
Most recently the group has been looking to Asia to plug what it felt was a gap in its offering. In the last five months it has launched businesses in Singapore, China and Japan. “The expansion throughout Asia is clearly hugely beneficial to the rest of the network,” says Shirley. “We’re seeing more and more transactions with an Asian element, so it’s essential that we’ve got the coverage to service those clients and those projects properly there.”
IF PWC WAS AN ANIMAL, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
“If PwC Legal was an animal it would be a lemur - because we’re still considered rare and exotic, plus everyone is fascinated about us and keen to know more.”
The ability to provide a joined-up service is central to the network model that PwC operates, and the legal arm is no exception – leveraging not only a hefty global network, but also contacts and close personal relationships across the broader professional services business. “Clients want a solution,” says Shirley. “They don’t want legal advice on this, tax advice on that, or accounting advice on the other. They come with a business issue and they expect you to solve that issue in numerous jurisdictions. So that’s really the philosophy of the business – to be able to offer combined, joined-up services to clients to satisfy that demand.”
PwC is able to field one project manager that delivers the whole piece – and that project manager could be drawn from any one of its disciplines, depending on the nature of the work. “We can deliver one engagement letter to the client, one bill, one project leader for 10 or more different disciplines,” Shirley explains.
PwC Legal covers a range of specialisms focusing on areas that are complementary to the wider PwC business but one of its strongest and most exciting offerings is in cyber security and data privacy. In the UK, a recent coup was the hire of Stewart Room to lead the fledgling cyber security and data privacy practice. “He joined us because he wanted to be able to provide complete multidisciplinary services to his clients,” says Shirley. PwC Legal is the perfect place to do this, she says, thanks to the network of skillsets to draw from. “It’s not enough to just go to a client and say: ‘Well this is the law, this is what you need to do’. You’ve got to have the technology behind you, you’ve got to have forensic experts and risk assurance experts,” she explains.
Technology is a crucial element of what makes the PwC world go round, in order to reassure clients that the service is indeed joined-up and global. “They expect it to look and feel the same in London, Sydney, Bangkok, Singapore,” says Shirley. “We’re all using the same methodology, reporting to the client in the same way - so there’s consistency around the network.”
That uniformity in systems and quality which characterises PwC’s other professional services is key when pitching for multijurisdictional projects, as the firm discovered recently. A client went to tender in 18 of PwC Legal’s global locations and they were able to deliver. “We were able to pull all that together,” says Shirley, “and it enabled the client to visit those countries and interview those lawyers for the pitch within a matter of weeks.”
Shirley points to a shift in how legal services are being procured, and argues that PwC Legal is uniquely positioned to deliver what corporates now want in a global and increasingly regulated economy. “There are an awful lot of potential holes for them to fall into,” she says. “Law firms and professional services providers need to offer a different delivery model and much better technology so that they can manage these projects better for clients.”
Being part of a network is also beneficial for the practitioners themselves, who are able to draw upon the expertise of a company that first made its name in the accountancy field. The company drills its staff in financial and commercial awareness, and PwC Legal practitioners are no different. They are schooled in the art of running a business, in order to avoid a niche outlook and to enable a 360 degree dialogue with their in-house counterparts.
“Those are always the sorts of conversations you’re having with clients,” says Shirley. “It’s not just about a legal issue, it’s a business issue.”