|its ethics committee that the American Bar Association defer changing its
rules to permit the creation of multidisciplinary practices (MDPs).
recommendation that attorneys be subject to non-attorney control in MDP practices
threatens the foundation of the attorney's duty of independence," the ethics panel
wrote in its recommendation to the bar board.
It also suggested that the ramifications of MDPs outside of partnerships between
attorneys and accountants have not been adequately considered.
An ABA commission recommended in June that professional rules be revised to permit
lawyers and non-lawyers to set up shop under one roof. They would share fees, and legal
ethics rules would apply to such practices, which would be subject to court regulation.
International accounting firms already offer integrated professional services and have
hired lawyers as part of their teams, although they say those lawyers are not practicing
Opponents of MDPs worry that such practices could compromise attorneys' ethical
obligations, particularly the duty to protect client rights of confidentiality and
loyalty, as well as threaten a lawyer's independent professional judgment.
The ABA commission report is to be considered this month by ABA House of Delegates. If
adopted, it will likely be referred to the ABA's Ethics 2000 Commission, which is
developing revisions to professional rules. No action the ABA takes will be binding on
California, although a rules change would move the legal profession in the direction of
After studying the proposal, the State Bar's Standing Committee on Professional
Responsibility and Conduct (COPRAC) recommended that the bar oppose the MDP proposal and
urge the ABA to study the issue further.
The MDP commission identified 15 core "principles" which it suggested provide
a basis for changing professional rules. But COPRAC said those principles "do not
clearly reveal an adequate infrastructure to support the changes being recommended."
In addition, the ethics panel suggested that a rules change could lead to the unauthorized
practice of law.
Despite its reservations, COPRAC did not suggest the bar reject the MDP proposal
outright. In fact, it said it would "welcome proposals for new forms of legal
practice designed to foster benefits for clients."