PwC Plans to Open Law Firm in U.S.

By:
Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Sep 22, 2017
PWC

Big Four firm PricewaterhouseCoopers is planning to launch a law firm in the U.S., reflecting a growing emphasis on legal services alongside traditional business and accounting practice areas on the part of large CPA firms across the world, according to Law.com. The firm, ILC Legal, will specialize in serving U.S.-based multinational corporations that do business abroad, and so will offer services in areas like international corporate structuring, M&A support, labor, financial services, immigration, cybersecurity and data protection, corporate secretarial, tax controversy and dispute resolution. 

The Big Four accounting firms have all been ramping up their legal service offerings over the past decade, collectively employing about 8,500 law professionals between them, according to Law.com. PwC in particular, with 2,500 lawyers, is technically the sixth largest legal services provider in the world, with PwC Law offices in 85 countries, far more than any other law firm.

One exception, however, is the U.S., which the Economist says accounts for over one third of the legal services market. This is because of numerous laws and regulations in the U.S. that specifically prohibit the full integration of law and accounting firms. An article in the Indiana Law Review from 2000 notes that the two professions would seem to have contradictory mandates: accountants are meant to be objective, loyal to the numbers, while attorneys are meant to be advocates, loyal to their clients. This point was particularly emphasized when the Sarbanes-Oxley Act severely restricted the types of non-audit services that firms could offer their audit clients, though there are also a number of state-level regulations, as well as Bar Association restrictions on this matter as well. This had, previously, checked the Big Four's ambitions in the U.S. in terms of what services it could offer. While able to provide a number of auxiliary services, they cannot, as is generally understood, practice law. 

However, while launched by PwC, the firm will be created as a separate legal entity entirely, and so the firm's leaders believe it will be able to do what any independent law firm in the U.S. could do, given it is not directly controlled by an accounting firm. It is also set up not as a traditional law firm but, rather, looks at legal services as part of a broader offering. While there are currently no plans to open additional offices in the U.S., leadership has not ruled out doing so in the future, said Law.com. 

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