Not 'If' But 'How': Reflecting on the ABA Commission's Recommendations on Multidisciplinary Practice
91 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2011
Date Written: 2000
Multidisciplinary practice (MDP) has been aptly described as the, "most important issue facing the legal profession today." The American Bar Association's Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice (Commission) surprised most observers on June 8, 1999 by recommending that the American Bar Association (ABA) amend the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (Model Rules) to allow lawyers to combine with, and share fees with, other professionals within a single professional entity. Under the proposal, lawyers could create partnerships with accountants, developers, engineers, bankers, and all other professionals, thereby giving clients access to one-stop shopping at multidisciplinary firms.
Some argue that the Commission's Report and Recommendation on MDPs simply realizes and accepts trends that have been evolving for years in the United States and, for that matter, throughout the world. While the specific techniques of partnership and fee sharing among lawyers and nonlawyers has hardly been the norm, some legal and nonlegal professional firms are so interdependent that the technical prohibitions on partnership and fee sharing have become mere outdated, bothersome obstacles. On the other hand, those opposing MDPs, while recognizing the steady change in professional firms over the years, argue that the changes have reached a critical point, and that these changes must be answered with the maintenance or strengthening, not the relaxation, of the current regulations.
We agree generally with the proponents of MDPs who suggest regulating such entities to the extent necessary to preserve the essential attributes of the attorney-client relationship. Indeed, well before the Commission's Report, we were on record as supporting access by lawyers to capital markets by allowing nonlawyer investment in law firms. The issues surrounding the MDP issue, while broader in scope, involve substantially similar concerns. In Part II, we explore the reasons why the MDP issue is of such current concern. In Part III, we examine and comment on the Commission's process and product. Finally, in Part IV, we address the issues of professional integrity which form the basis for the intellectual attack on permitting MDPs.
Keywords: Ethics, professional responsibility, multidisciplinary practice
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