Planning for an uncertain future is an excellent parlour game, to which we welcome back seasoned player PwC. PwC Legal’s senior partner predicts that multidisciplinary practices have ‘more to offer’ than traditional law firms. Well she would, wouldn’t she.
The big four accounting giant can’t be easily dismissed, having announced a £10m jump in income from legal services. But sector veterans will recall the last time the accountants were ‘coming’, in the dying days of the last century. Their advance foundered amid the ashes of Arthur Andersen and professional cultures that were and remain very different.
The big four’s hugely successful business model relies on the cross-selling of products and packages. As one looks at the increasing sophistication being applied to the disaggregation of legal matters, it is clear there is space for this approach to grow – but not to take over.
Happy clients buy the same products in the same way; the problems and needs of unhappy clients are all different. This makes professionals’ pricing and rewards internally contentious; one of many reasons why a rigid structure is the wrong vessel for all.
So far the quartet have focused on mid-tier, process-oriented work rather than the mega-transactions and disputes handled by the magic circle. They will be eyeing the step up, but in the diffuse legal market all business propositions have a ceiling.