PWC in bid to pull network's affiliated practices into line

Gerard Nicolay, the head of Pricewaterhouse Coopers' international legal network, has formed a global executive body to try to integrate the dozens of local affiliated legal practices into one firm.

The seven-member executive, chaired by Nicolay, comprises the heads of Coopers & Lybrand's and Price Waterhouse's French, Dutch and UK (Chris Arnheim and Chris Tite) firms.

The two accountants' captive law firms will have to merge in each jurisdiction before Nicolay can pull practice groups together across borders.

His task will be complicated by local Bar rules that in many jurisdictions prevent close association with accountants. The Dutch Bar Association is currently seeking to have Price Waterhouse's Dutch law firm declared illegal.

Nicolay's other difficulty may be convincing PwC's management that he is not creating a new global power base within PwC. National PwC service line heads could object if lawyers report to a global legal head rather than deal with the appropriate PwC service lines within each country.

In the UK, Arnheim & Co's 50 lawyers will move into Tite & Lewis' stand-alone four-storey office in Farringdon Street on 1 October, when the two firms become Arnheim Tite & Lewis. They aim to move again to larger premises by the end of the year giving them room to expand to 130 lawyers by next June.

The UK firms had a combined fee income last financial year of around £20m – which would have brought them into the “bubbling under” section of last month's The Lawyer top 50.

Arnheim & Co's 50 lawyers include 12 partners, several of whom are salaried, while the similarly sized Tite & Lewis contains only two partners – Chris Tite and Mark Lewis, both of whom are equity.

There may be some fall-out when the two are pulled together. Fifteen months ago two lawyers left Coopers & Lybrand to join Arnheim & Co rather than Coopers' firm Tite & Lewis.