Multi-disciplinary partnerships (MDPs) will be given the green light as early as next year, according to Law Society president Michael Mathews.
Speaking at the Law Society conference in Bournemouth last Friday, Mathews said he wanted plans to regulate MDPs to be well-advanced by the end of his presidential term next July. He is hopeful that they could be up and running by 2000.
"The time has come not to consider whether we can permit this type of practice but to consider how," said Mathews.
He promised a decision about how to regulate MDPs would not get bound up with bureaucratic red tape at the Law Society: "I don't think we want to debate the issue for five years, or even two."
However, he warned there were still "issues" to work through, such as indemnity insurance.
Last week, the Law Society published a consultation paper on which MDP model was most acceptable to the profession, which was sent to every law firm in England and Wales.
The paper said there was "an almost infinite number" of possible models ranging from MDPs with barely any client protection to MDPs regulated almost entirely by the Law Society.
In his speech to the conference, Mathews produced a robust defence of the legal profession.
Referring to the "fat cat" row he asked if critics would like to see £640m in invisible earnings generated by City law firms go to the economies of Germany, France or the US.