ABA task force to probe threat posed by MDPs

THE AMERICAN Bar Association (ABA) has set up a top-level inquiry into the threat posed to the legal profession by multidisciplinary partnerships (MDPs).

The inquiry was announced by the ABA's new president, Philip Anderson, at its annual conference in Toronto last week.

Tax expert Sherman Simmons, of US firm Steel Hector & Davis, will head a ten-person commission which will report to the ABA at next year's conference in Atlanta.

The task force's brief is to “gather facts about developments in the US and the rest of the world, determine if a response by the organised bar is appropriate and, if so, what the response should be”.

In his inaugural speech to the ABA's ruling house of delegates, Anderson expressed grave concern that the legal profession could splinter if MDPs were allowed.

“Will the business lawyer of the 21st century be an employee of an accounting firm? Will the trial lawyer of the 21st century be an employee of a financial services firm?” he asked.

But the Law Society of England and Wales' newly elected president, Michael Mathews, said he was “a little disappointed” at the negative attitude of most US lawyers to MDPs.

He added: “A lot of organisations are going to look at this question, the ABA being one, but they seem to be looking at it as if they know the answer before they start.”

Pricewaterhouse Coopers' global chief Gerard Nicolay said conference delegates were “trying to convince themselves we don't have the quality”.

See ABA report, back page