Lord chancellor David Gauke has welcomed the arrival of the ‘big four’ professional services firms to the legal market, hailing it as providing ‘additional choice for consumers’.

Speaking at the launch of lobby group TheCityUK’s latest legal services report, Gauke noted that Deloitte had joined the legal services market this year and that PwC’s UK legal practice had reached a headcount of 320 with revenue of £60m, putting it ‘just outside the UK’s top 50 law firms in its own right’.

'The entrance and growth of alternative business structures has provided additional choice for consumers, driven competition and fostered innovation, and in part played a crucial role in maintaining the attractiveness of our jurisdiction,’ Gauke said.

He added: ’As the report highlights, none of this would have been possible without our open, progressive, and consumer oriented regulatory regime.’

Deloitte officially entered the legal services market in June after the Solicitors Regulation Authority confirmed it has granted a licence. Legal services will be provided in employment law, tax litigation and immigration.

Also tonight, Gauke asserted that the EU withdrawal agreement, which parliament will vote on this month, is in the ‘best interests’ of the legal sector. 'The prime minister has been clear from the beginning of this process that the government’s goal is to secure a deal that is in the best interests of the whole of the UK. We believe the deal on the table does that,’ Gauke said.

He added that the ’unprecedented agreement’ establishes the parameters of an ‘ambitious, broad, deep and mutually beneficial’ future relationship across trade and economic cooperation, law enforcement and criminal justice, foreign and security policy.

The UK, he said, is prioritising commencing preparations to join the Hague 2005 convention on choice of court agreements and intends to accede to the Lugano Convention ‘in our own right’ during the implementation period.

’By working together, I have no doubt we can ensure that UK legal services will protect and cement its position as a global leader – so that the world continues to look to the UK to be its counsel and courtroom through the digital age and beyond,’ he said.

This report was based on a draft of the lord chancellor's speech released under embargo. The final version is published here