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31 Jan 2014 03:00pm

PwC Legal gets ABS licence

PwC Legal has become the first of the Big Four law firms to gain approval as an alternative business structure from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)

The move paves the way for PwC to become an owner of the business which until now has been forced to work as a separate legal firm within the PwC network. The licence becomes effective on 3 March.

“This marks an important step for PwC Legal,” said Shirley Brookes, PwC Legal’s senior partner. “[It] 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.”

PwC’s global network employs over 2,400 lawyers in 80 countries, 200 of who whom work for PwC Legal.

The SRA has awarded more than 200 licences since it was first granted the right to regulate alternative business structures two years ago. Most applications have come from law firms seeking external investment.

The first firm to receive a licence in order to join up with an accountancy firm was Price Bailey Legal Services Ltd. It received its licence on 29 March 2013 and became an ABS on 1 April.

SRA director of policy Crispin Passmore said, “The authorisation of PwC Legal as an ABS is another example of the innovative changes taking place in the legal market.

“Nearly two years on from the first ABS licensed by the SRA, we are seeing further increased diversity in the supply of legal services, and that provides consumers with greater choice.

“Throughout 2014, we expect to see further changes as more businesses take advantage of the liberalisation to innovate and grow the legal market, be it through increased exports of corporate legal services, improving access and affordability for small business, or helping individual consumers solve the problems of day-to-day life.”

The ICAEW is in the process of applying to become a licensing authority for alternative business structures.Its application was approved by the Legal Services Board in December last year and has gone to the Lord Chancellor’s Department for final approval.

Julia Irvine

 

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