Having recently integrated PwC’s legal arm into the wider PwC UK business, the ‘Big Four’ accountancy giant offers something a bit different to your typical law firm.
This is most obviously manifested in the training. As one rookie solicitor tells us: “The training programmes at the firm are not for legal trainees only but for most people at the firm.” Work is as wide ranging as you would expect for such a huge business — at roughly £36 billion PwC’s global revenue is far larger than any law firm (and it has a whopping 743 offices in 157 different countries!). Another insider reports: “I have drafted court documents on large matters largely independently (with appropriate review, of course), and I have also project managed medium-value matters.” Being an accountancy firm, a tax seat is a rite of passage, which can elicit some grumbles.
The amount of legal work that PwC does keeps rising. In the last financial year, law-related revenue rose by a quarter from £48.5 million to £59.9 million, which places the firm’s UK legal arm on a similar level to some of the smaller top 50-100 City law firms. A payscale that sees partners earn between £270,000 to £1.1 million echoes such outfits’ profitability. The signs are that this growth will continue as the major accountancy firms offer more legal services to their clients.
With an intake of 30 a year, the trainee cohort has the vibe of “a smaller organisation within a larger organisation”. “The trainee community is great … Your intake is your safety net,” one tells us. This has fostered a good social scene, with “great vacation scheme socials which the trainees get to go along to. We also have various team socials and trainee socials throughout the year, including most recently a black tie event at the Natural History Museum and dinner at the Shard.” The senior lawyers, meanwhile, are “very approachable”, thanks in part to the fact that “most senior people at the firm do not have a separate office”.
PWC’s main London office, at the bottom of Embankment on the edge of the West End, is everything you’d expect from a multinational. It lays claim to being the most environmentally friendly building in Europe and “has lots of good break out areas” which “allows you to meet new people and learn a lot through osmosis”. But the open plan is not everyone’s cup of tea. One PwC insider describes it like this: “Recently refurbished with hot-desking, loads of break-out areas, pop-up meeting areas, phone booths, booths with screens, unbookable meeting rooms, unbookable quiet rooms, private individual booths. Open plan is sometimes annoying, hard to get hold of a computer screen for desks, hot-desking means desks must be cleared every night and everything put away in a locker (not ideal if you’re working with loads of documents until X AM in the morning), hard to book a room for meetings etc.” Another reckons the building is “designed for other, more transient professional services who spend their time working when on client site and not working when in the office.”
The building features a decent canteen, but there are some complaints over the fact it isn’t subsidised – “The hot breakfast is a bargain though”.
The downside to PwC’s megafirm status is that sometimes its size means that well-meaning initiatives take a while to work smoothly. When it comes to tech, we hear that “PwC looks very sleek from the outside, inside there are some issues”, with “two or three systems in place as the old one is phased out”. There are some particular gripes around the document management system, which is apparently “not intuitive and generally difficult to use”. A consistent gripe, that echoes complaints made in other areas, is over “problems with suitability of tech for law firm purposes”.
Perks are fairly extensive, including unlimited personal use of work iPhones, the ability to buy five extra days of holiday a year and free access to various London galleries and theatre discounts. But the pay is seen as “not amazing”. There aren’t too many grumbles about this, as PwC offers pretty good work/life balance — according to the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2019-20, the average arrive and leave the office times are, respectively, 9:18am and 6:47pm. Hours vary between departments, but a flexible working push gives PwC rookies reasonable levels of control over their time.