Life Behind the Firewall

“Welcome to the Firewall,” Yaxin said with a grin as she tapped her card to the clear, glass door of the fifth floor’s southwest corridor. I couldn’t help but grin too. Two clicks sounded as she reached out, grabbed the door handle and pulled it towards her. “Are you ready?” she asked, looking back at me. I was still in awe. I nodded and walked forward, calm and poised on the outside, but bursting with excitement on the inside.

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PwC Legal LLP is a member of the PwC international network of firms. As a firm, it’s able to provide clients with integrated legal advice on complex commercial projects requiring a range of complementary specialists from other parts of the PwC network. They also offer clients general counsel service and access to a highly impressive and extensive global network, including locally qualified, jurisdiction-specific, bar admitted legal expertise worldwide.

In the UK, the rest of Europe, much of Africa, and Asia, PwC Legal attorneys are able to work alongside market-leading experts from the PwC global network in tax, human resource services, corporate finance, investment funds and financial services regulation.

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Just how is this possible? The Legal Services Act of 2007 allows non-lawyers to own and invest in law firms through creation of an alternative business structure (ABS). An ABS is a firm where a non-lawyer is a manager of the firm, or has an ownership-type interest in the firm. A firm may also be an ABS where another body is a manager of the firm, or has an ownership-type interest in the first and at least 10 per cent of that body is controlled by non-lawyers.

The ability to diversify the range of legal services provided by the practice, either through becoming a ‘one stop shop’ or consolidating a specialism in a particular area of the market, is a tremendous development. Equity can be raised from outside the legal sector without the need for non-lawyer involvement at the management level. This has the potential to allow firms to attract new investment from diverse, integrated markets worldwide.

Though PwC Legal LLP and PwC LLP are separate entities underneath our holding company, PwC, we both are headquartered at Embankment Place, in London, and frequently utilize the services of one another in aiding our global clientele. So why the firewall? Per financial regulations enacted simultaneously with ABS law, PwC Legal is not allowed to engage any clients that individuals within our network audit. A part from this rule, though it is the most significant reason we have the firewall, given the nature of the work that we do daily: mergers, takeovers, large acquisitions and business reorganizations. It is imperative that no one outside of our firewall, save for the client herself, know the details of the various engagements we’re contracted to.

What I can tell you is that I’m completely in love with what I do, and what’s more, I’m in love with London. I’ve been given five separate assignments in my first week alone, four of which I completed, the fifth having just been assigned to me this past week. On Thursday, one of the partners asked me if I wanted to accompany her to a client meeting across the river. We went, I sat patiently and quietly, and then a quarter of the way through the meeting she turned to me and asked, “And what do you think about all of this?” Limited though I may be, I’d collected enough knowledge through my tax and business law courses to make a semi-intelligent comment regarding the reorg the client was requesting. Or so I must have, given what followed…

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When we got outside the client site, she informed me that she had a doctor’s appointment on the side of the river we were on. Before she said goodbye however, she smiled and said, “How would you like to jump on as the associate on this deal with me?” I grinned nearly as wide as I did the first time I stepped foot through the firewall.

firewall

I’d be the point of contact and lead associate on a major reorg for one of our largest clients. I said yes without hesitation, returned to the office, and immediately began scouring our client database to get a flavor for the types of transactions and structuring we’d performed for them in the past. I’m so incredibly grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to jump-start my career with PwC, here in London, and I couldn’t be happier to be living life behind the firewall.

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