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The law Society has agreed to speed up moves to allow nonsolicitors to become partners in solicitors' firms.
The Law Society says the initiative will provide an interim solution for firms wanting to become multidisciplinary partnerships (MDPs) to provide a range of services to clients.
Under the proposals, called Legal Practice Plus, solicitors would be able to work with accountants, practice managers and other professionals so long as the majority of partners in their firm are solicitors. Non-solicitor partners would have to follow the solicitors' rules of professional conduct and would be regulated by the Law Society.
Details of the proposals will be hammered out at the December Law Society committee meeting.
Last year the Law Society put forward proposals for Legal Practice Plus and linked partnerships as part of a paper on MDPs.
Nick Holt, managing partner at KLegal, welcomes the move. "But it's only part of the proposals, and we want to reach the point of linked partnerships," he says. "I see this as being more relevant to the high-street firm than to the more corporate-orientated practice."
One source says the new proposals are akin to the Law Society saying: "We don't mind MDPs so long as we can continue to boss you around."
Law Society president Michael Napier says: "Effective regulation must keep up with the realities of the marketplace and not hinder new forms of business. More clients want a broader range of advice and services from their lawyers and this must happen in a way that allows the public to be fully protected against any conflict of interest.
"The society continues to work towards a regulatory model that would allow solicitors to engage in fully-fledged multidisciplinary partnerships, but this will take time. These flexible solutions provide a way forward in the meantime while ensuring that consumer interests are safeguarded."
A report by the MDP Working Party says the structure linked partnerships (where nonsolicitor partnerships can join up with law firms on an equal basis) might eventually take would require working with the Regulation Review Working Party (RRWP). But the MDP Working party says: "We don't wish to duplicate the work of the RRWP."