MDPs are a 'fraud' says IBA's Spanish council member

Spain's leading law firm J&A Garrigues Andersen has responded coolly to a combative stance taken at the International Bar Conference on associations between lawyers and accountants.

Bernado Cremades, Spain's representative on the IBA's ruling council and a member of the Madrid Bar Association, told delegates that “trying to combine accountants and law firms is not admissible”.

He referred to “Chinese walls” between auditors, tax advisers and legal consultants, calling the links between the different sectors a “fraud”. He said that the Spanish Bar Association had issued a statement banning multidisciplinary partnerships (MDPs).

His comments have been interpreted as an attack on Spain's biggest law firm, J&A Garrigues Andersen, formed when J&A Garrigues merged with the Spanish legal arm of Arthur Andersen earlier this year. The firm has 500 fee earners in total and an office in every major Spanish urban centre.

The merger consolidated Arthur Andersen's international advance into legal services in a spectacular fashion but, at the same time, opened up a debate about the dangers of MDPs.

But Pablo Olabarri, a partner at Garrigues, said Cremades' warning did not apply to his firm.

“There's nothing against this type of firm in Spain,” he said. “This does not affect us, because we are not an accountancy firm, but a law firm.”

He said in his opinion the Spanish Bar Association was not concerned about his practice, but rival law firms were.

A spokesman for the association said he was not aware of the statement on MDPs.