PwC To Launch US Law Firm

Eaton Capital Markets partner Justin Whealing said the big four had a lot to offer on transactions, and large law firm leaders were worried about their deep pockets.

"But it will always be tough for them to do contentious work," he said.

The biggest risk for the accountants, according to the ALM Intelligence survey, is drawing the attention of regulators. In the US, multidisciplinary practices are heavily restricted and firms cannot offer legal services to audit clients, a legacy of the Enron collapse in 2001, at a time when the Big Four had built lawyer bases to rival the world's biggest firms.

The American Bar Association is said to wield significant power, keeping the US legal services market as closed to outsiders — whether from other countries or other professions — as possible. 

But the dramatic evolution of legal services and the increasing appetite from clients is already driving solutions that seek to skirt the old model, making some question whether US lawyers will be the next taxi drivers caught napping.

Consultant and LawWithoutWalls founder Michele DeStefano said Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada — in that order — were "ahead of the game" when it came to innovation including in operations management, because of their relative exposure to competition.

"Rules preventing lawyers working with non-lawyers or sharing fees have prevented some of these products from really taking off [in the US]," she said.

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