For the last three years, PwC Legal Luxembourg has focused on integrating into the accounting giant’s network, following the tie-up that saw independent firm MNKS join PwC at the end of 2018.
The pandemic made that introductory phase last longer than expected, but now that the world is slowly returning to normality the firm is ready to show the Luxembourg market what it stands for, according to managing partner Catherine Baflast.
To put it in Baflast’s words, they want to be seen “as first-rate advisers and not just pure legal technicians”.
She added: “The point is to convince and to make a bold statement on the market and towards [clients] who are looking for a business firm which is connected to a fast-moving world and that also remains close to the clients.”
Baflast, a corporate and M&A lawyer, joined Noble & Scheidecker in 2002, which became MNKS two years later. Baflast took over from previous managing partner Cindy Arces at the end of September.
A key concept for PwC’s legal arm Luxembourg moving forward will be its concept of the so-called lawyer-entrepreneur. According to Baflast, it calls upon lawyers to think proactively and outside of their own field of expertise while advising clients, as opposed to working “in a silo”. The firm has also increasingly been recruiting professionals with both business and law degrees, she adds.
Although the concept invites lawyers to learn more from their tax and auditing colleagues, Baflast says she or any of the firm’s lawyers naturally won’t be doing any auditing work.
Instead, she explains, a PwC Legal Luxembourg lawyer might identify a tax concern while doing due diligence on a client transaction.
“We will tell the client: ‘Apparently, there might be a tax issue. Do you have an advisor? If not, would you like us to seek assistance for you?” she says.
This cross-disciplinary and “one-stop-shop” approach, she added, offers clients obvious benefits.
“Whether they are talking to a consultant or lawyer or an auditor, they are talking first to a business generalist who will be able to develop a holistic vision of all the problems that the client [faces],” she explained.
Asked what distinguishes PwC’s legal arm from local competitors, Baflast says they pair the closeness of an independent firm with a global and multidisciplinary approach.
“We are still, in a sense, an independent law firm in a network,” she explains.
“Our strength is our geographical coverage and multidisciplinary work, but what we do as a law firm remains the same [and we’ve kept] the proximity and the reactivity of the business firm we were a few years ago,” she says. “We combine the best of the two worlds.”
We’re not a threat
Baflast added they should not be seen as a threat by traditional law firms.
“We should not be seen as a threat. Because this was not necessarily the case before and there’s so no reason for us to be to be seen differently,” she said, referring to the period when the firm was still MNKS. “It’s the same law firm but just within another environment and in a multidisciplinary network.”
At the moment, corporate law represents the majority of the PwC Legal Luxembourg’s work. But Baflast hopes to grow the firm’s investment funds practice, which the firm launched when it joined PwC’s network, and what she describes as work related to “new technologies”, for instance, projects related to digitalisation, archiving and electronic signatures.
Banking law will also be a key focus area for the firm in the years to come.
“Because we will be in a buoyant segment once the pandemic will be over and we really need to make sure we cover all those areas that are required for a business law firm,” Baflast said. “So we are looking to strengthen our banking law team.”