Everyone knows that Big Four accountancy and consulting giant PwC has a legal arm and that it is growing week by week. In fact, it’s at over 3,500 legal staff globally now. But, many may not appreciate they are also developing a ‘NewLaw’ arm, assisted by AI technology. And it’s growing…
Andrew Giverin (pictured above), a London-based PwC partner who, together with partners Jason McQuillen and Juan Crosby lead PwC’s ‘New Law’ practice, talked to Artificial Lawyer about what the 223,000-strong professional services gargantuan is planning for the world of legal process improvement.
‘We believe lawyers should practice law and not be burdened by mundane and repetitive work,’ says Giverin. ‘So we work with large companies to benchmark, advise, design and implement efficient and cost-effective legal processes using innovative technology so that the in-house lawyers can focus their talents on supporting the growth and protection of the business.’
This offering covers a broad range of services, including: giving advice on in-house legal function efficiency; contract digitisation and the integration of better processes; and the use of legal tech in large contract review projects, which includes using AI applications.
First off, Giverin mentions his team has just hired Claire Hirst from alternative legal services provider (ALSP), Axiom, to help build and develop PwC’s Belfast based Managed Legal Services (MLS) team.
PwC says that Hirst will further strengthen the firm’s MLS capability, which handles high volume legal process work ‘such as day to day contracting and large contract review projects’. Basing the team in Belfast will enable PwC to leverage off the existing 650 legally trained personnel and technologists there who are already servicing PwC’s UK clients across all its business lines.
The MLS team uses ‘legal expertise, lawtech and scalable process’ says PwC, with that ‘lawtech’ segment, as they call it, including AI doc review systems.
However, Giverin is very keen to point out that while PwC has strong tech relationships across the board, there is no one particular legal AI application or vendor that they encourage clients to use. Rather, PwC is seeking to provide a complete solution for the inhouse team, sorting out all the parts of their process challenges and providing them with the AI tool, or tools, that are right for that job, or particular part of it, plus everything human that goes with it.
‘Tech is a huge force multiplier,’ says Giverin. ‘We see a significant opportunity there and want to build a tech-enabled legal practice, and AI is part of that.’
This enables PwC to come at the problem of serving clients’ legal needs in a completely demand-based way, rather than trying to find a way to fit a traditional law firm partnership around today’s rapidly changing in-house legal needs. Or, for that matter, trying to fit any particular AI vendor’s system to a problem, when the reality may be that another tool is a better fit.
In short, PwC wants freedom of choice to build and integrate whatever solution best meets the client’s needs.
That said, even the best tech itself is not an answer alone, says Giverin. ‘We have got to be focused on analysing the problem. We develop a plan to solve that problem, which often means looking at the underlying process and that’s where PwC with its multi-disciplinary approach and global reach can really add the value,’ he says.
Tech is just one component in the bigger picture, as far as he is concerned. And the term ‘component’ is perhaps fitting given how Giverin describes how they use AI in legal work.
‘We know all the legal AI players. We monitor all the capabilities. Then we integrate them to solve a client problem. We just swap in and out different technologies where it makes sense to do so,’ he notes.
So, what next? They’ve got the technology, the people, the clients and a methodology. What’s the strategy to grow this MLS capability?
As it stands, the aim it appears is to do more of what they do already, but to keep scaling up, as the hire of Hirst shows.
‘In the world of MLS, we can help to review recurring contracts, provide triage tools, we can do clause analysis, we can help with contract search,’ says Giverin, in fact, it would appear the entire range of services that most ALSPs offer, but with a legal function efficiency capability as well. Plus they have a big team of more experienced advisory lawyers to aim at problems as well.
Giverin then pauses and says: ‘…and we’ve got scale elsewhere.’ To which one can only say: that’s for sure. It’s hard to argue that a business with operations in 157 countries out of 195, or about 80% of the planet, and global revenues of around $40 billion does not have scale. And they plan to wield it.
The question now is how far will PwC leverage this professional army and their array of legal tech and AI applications, and what impact will all of this have on traditional law firms and ALSP incumbents, especially as the legal AI element adds extra efficiency and productivity to their offering?
Interesting times indeed.