NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Lawyers Debate "Multidisciplinary Practice"

August 9, 1999

Experts are questioning the U.S. policy of restricting cooperation between attorneys and other professionals.

Last year, the president of the American Bar Association appointed a panel -- entitled the Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice -- to study these restrictions. It concluded that attorneys "should not permit existing rules to unnecessarily inhibit the development of new structures for the more effective delivery of services and better public access to the legal system.

  • The ABA's Model Rules of Professional Conduct have long limited cooperation among different professions -- such as accountants, tax planners, bankers, realtors and labor consultants.
  • Critics of this policy point out that many legal problems -- especially those arising from complex business transactions -- involve a host of nonlegal issues.
  • But regulations ban firms from being owned by non- attorneys and fee-splitting fee splitting with non- attorneys.
  • By allowing other disciplines to work with lawyers, the public would receive a better product, reformers say.

Some observers are urging the ABA House of Delegates to adopt this more flexible approach. But they caution that the commission's recommendations should be liberalized further by removing certain restrictions -- such as provisions which could cause administrative chaos by applying attorney regulations to what are now recognized as non-attorney services, such as tax planning.

Source: Doug Bandow (Cato Institute), "Liberate the Legal Market," Investor's Business Daily, August 9, 1999.


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