The American Bar Association issued a revised
recommendation that attorneys be permitted to develop multidisciplinary practices with
nonlawyers, but tightened up proposed regulations to better protect ethical standards.
The recommendation would allow lawyers to share fees and join with
nonlawyer professionals in practices offering both legal and nonlegal services. Such a
change requires a revision of the ABAs Model Rules of Professional Conduct and, in
California, a new rule of professional conduct approved by the Supreme Court.
The ABA House of Delegates had rejected an earlier MDP recommendation
last summer by refusing to support any changes to ethics rules.
The new proposal explicitly states that revised rules should restrict
lawyers to practicing with members of recognized professions or disciplines governed by
The earlier proposal was more general and would have left the states
to determine what nonlaywer disciplines would be acceptable in a multidisciplinary
In a bid to protect lawyer independence, a key obstacle for those who
oppose any rules changes, the new recommendation would only permit shared practices where
lawyers have sufficient control and authority necessary to assure independence.
It also would prohibit nonlawyers from delivering legal services,
prohibits passive investment in an MDP and restates lawyers obligations to observe
rules of professional conduct.
A fast-changing marketplace, in which accounting firms in particular
have teamed up with lawyers to provide one-stop financial services, is driving the move
But many attorneys are worried about traditional professional values
that protect client rights of confidentiality and loyalty and preserve lawyers
independent professional judgment. Some legal groups see MDPs as a threat to lawyers, but
supporters say the profession needs to change in order to provide a better legal delivery
A vote on the proposal is expected at the ABA meeting in July in New
York City. A full text of the recommendation is available at www.abanet.org/cpr/multicom.html.