The U.S. accounting profession is abuzz with the prospect of adding legal services to its repertoire. Such multidisciplinary practices (MDP) are common in Europe, where some of the largest legal practices are conducted through accounting firms. A Big Five firm recently participated in the formation of a law firm in Washington, D.C., by loaning funds to the start-up organization. The MDP movement, as explained in this month's Millennium Series article, has gained momentum from a recommendation by the American Bar Association Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice to allow attorneys to share fees and partner with nonattorneys.
The rule change would allow accounting firms to employ attorneys that, subject to certain restrictions, could offer a full array of legal services to their clients. Although the ABA House of Delegates voiced strong opposition and deferred voting, it instructed the MDP commission to gather additional information and resubmit the recommendation.
Law firms have also shown an interest in strategic alliances with other professional services firms, such as financial consultants. These alliances are sure to increase the pressure on the ABA to restructure its ethics rules to allow MDPs. *
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