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Lawyers are to be allowed to practice in partnership with other professionals under new government proposals unveiled this morning (Monday 17 October).
External ownership of law firms is also to be permitted, with the potential for non-lawyers to own 100 per cent of a firm.
The announcements were made by Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, as he published a white paper on the future of legal services.
It goes a step further than recommendations made by Sir David Clementi in his review of the regulation of the legal profession last December. Clementi recommended allowing legal professionals such as solicitors and barristers to practice together, but stopped short of recommending multi-disciplinary partnerships (MDPs).
However Lord Falconer said he believed that regulating MDPs would be possible under the new regulatory structure. That sees the establishment of a Legal Services Board (LSB) as an oversight regulator, authorising front-line regulators such as the Law Society and the Bar Council.
An independent Office of Legal Complaints (OLC) is also to be set up to deal with consumer complaints involving all legal professionals.
Lord Falconer said the proposals would “change the ethos of how lawyers operate” and provide a better service to consumers.
He said that City law firms were keen to bring in non-lawyers such as finance directors as partners, adding: “It’s for individual firms to decide whether or not they want alternative business structures.”
The Lord Chancellor praised the dominance of English law firms on the international scene, but both he and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Bridget Prentice MP said MDPs would enable British businesses to compete more on an international front.