The legal sector could soon be dominated by multi-disciplinary practices that have more to offer than traditional law firms, a senior lawyer at one of the ‘big four’ accountancy giants has said.

When asked if the ‘big four’ will dominate the legal market over the next five years, PwC Legal senior partner Shirley Brookes (pictured) told a London event yesterday that MDPs will become more common.

‘If you look at buyers of legal services across all market sectors, they are very different,’ she said. ‘The buyer is not a lawyer… [they’re thinking] “I’ve got a problem – someone come out and sort this thing for me”.

‘Multi-disciplinary practices will become more attractive to clients if they have more to offer than one professional service.’

Brookes was participating in a panel debate to discuss the findings of latest sector research published by business law firm Fox Williams and Byfield, a public relations company.

According to the report, entitled From Recruitment to Robots: growth strategies for law firms, technology is considered to offer the best prospects for increasing profitability.

Revenue for PwC’s legal arm jumped from £48.5m to £59.9m for the last financial year, it was reported this week.

However, Brookes warned that firms grab on to technology thinking it will save them money or boost profits.

‘A lot of clients [are] now pretty much under cost constraint,’ she said. ‘With technology you will get a profit boost for a year or two, but then clients will expect us to pass that on to them.’

Noting that legal ‘is just a very small bit of what we do’, Brookes said clients will want firms to offer something different, predicting that firms will have ‘more of other professionals and a smaller lawyer pool’.

Meanwhile, the American bar continues to be ‘extremely resistant’ to the idea of MDPs and external ownership, the event was told.

Robert Bata, founder and principal of consultancy WarwickPlace Legal, told the Gazette afterwards that lawyers, traditionally, consider themselves to be a select profession and ‘do not mingle with other professions’, considering it an ethical violation to have their business influenced by someone who is not a lawyer.

But clients will drive the change, he added, noting that there are law firms interested in getting outside funding.