Law firms already elbowing one another for multinational clients will soon have a new competitor: The Big Four accounting firm PwC, formerly known as PricewaterhouseCoopers, plans to open a law firm in Washington, D.C., next week.
The law firm, ILC Legal, will advise clients on international matters such as corporate restructuring. Its lawyers will act as special legal consultants, rather than fully licensed United States lawyers, allowing them to provide counsel on foreign law but not United States law.
ILC Legal, nonetheless, aims to vie with big law firms as a one-stop shop offering multinational companies access to other PwC services, including tax consulting and its network of 3,200 lawyers spread across 90 countries. The firms in that network operate separately but follow the same standards and practices under the PwC brand name.
“The difference is that PwC is the first to create a separate legal entity,” said Jeffrey Lowe, the law firm practice group leader at Major, Lindsey & Africa, a legal recruiting firm in New York.
Traditional law firms can take some solace in the restrictions that ILC Legal must follow in the United States. Current law generally does not allow accounting firms to provide nonauditing services, including legal services, to companies they audit. That means ILC Legal can provide services only to companies that are not PwC auditing clients.
PwC’s decision to open a law firm in the United States, which was first disclosed this week in The American Lawyer, faced another restriction: Most American jurisdictions prohibit nonlawyers from owning or operating law firms or sharing fees with nonlawyers. Washington, however, does not ban firms owned by nonlawyers.