Accountancy giant PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) alternative business structure licence could help it become a major competitive threat to firms working in process-driven areas of law, a market expert has said.

PwC Legal was last month granted ABS status by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and will now have access to financial backing from the Big Four professional services group.

Viv Williams, chief executive of consultancy 360 Legal, said the move is likely to mean PwC will expand into more process-based areas of law such as probate.

He said this would be of ‘particular concern’ to firms already working in process services, as this is an area in which accountancy firms are traditionally strong.

‘This is yet another challenge to an already very challenged profession, as it involves a well-known and respected brand entering the market,’ he said. ‘Of the Big Four, PwC is the most advanced accountancy firm in legal. But it would not surprise me if more got involved.’

Shirley Brookes (pictured), senior partner at PwC Legal, said the new status could lead to fresh additions to the body’s 200-strong team of fee-earners.

She said the firm will target additional growth areas such as cybersecurity and pensions.

‘We will be looking at recruits in key areas,’ she said. ‘We always look at areas where there is a demand from our clients.

‘This marks an important step for PwC Legal, supports our ambitions to further invest in people and skills, and underpins the focus of both firms on delivering value and quality to clients through strong relationships.’