Multidisciplinary Practice and the Future of the Legal Profession: Considering a Role for Independent Directors
40 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2011 Last revised: 9 Jul 2011
Date Written: 2001
Edward Bartoli, a Chicago attorney, was recently suspended by the Illinois Supreme Court for aiding nonlawyers in the unauthorized practice of law. Bartoli's argument? He claimed that he was merely running a multidisciplinary practice ("MDP"). The regulations governing such activity would soon change, claimed Bartoli, and thus he was only, "ahead of his time."
Because of the apparent inevitability of MDP-reform, attorneys like Bartoli are contemplating the creation of, and participation in, multidisciplinary practices throughout the United States. State regulatory bodies will be faced with the difficult determination of whether sanctions are necessary in some cases and whether sanctions are prudent in others. And many professionals, lawyers and nonlawyers, will offer the same argument if pressed: "We're only ahead of our time."
While it is not accurate to say that current professional responsibility and unauthorized practice regulations are of no consequence, those practitioners, "ahead of their time," give the profession something to consider in terms of a changing perspective. The issue of multidisciplinary practice will undergo more tumultuous debate and discussion. Lines will be drawn. Political factions will wage war with each other. Reform may be created in steps. But in practical terms, the revolution in legal services known as "MDP" is already here.
We suggest that interested legal professionals devote considerable time and energy not merely to continuing discussions and debate, but to actually prepare for the reality of multidisciplinary practice. Once MDP is formally allowed and operated through an effective framework in the United States, both sides of this issue will have less about which to complain: MDPs will be organized and run within a system that attains efficient profits in an ethical manner.
Perhaps the most basic and important issues surrounding multidisciplinary practice concern the organization and control of MDPs. This article n3advocates that the widespread practice of independent directors in publicly traded American corporations has much to offer both lawyers and nonlawyers in creating a workable framework for MDPs. Part II explores the reasons why the MDP issue is of great current concern. Part III analyzes the recent activity of the ABA Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice. Part IV presents an overview of the key arguments both for and against MDP-reform. Part V advocates the use of independent directors as one potential solution to the MDP issue. Finally, Part VI examines the use of independent directors as part of the five alternative business models suggested by the Commission.
Keywords: Multidisciplinary practice, ethics, preofessional responsibility
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