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Multidisciplinary partnerships have received a fresh blow following the European bar collective's recommendation that they should not be permitted.
The latest policy statement from the Council of the Bars and Law Societies of the European Union (CCBE) states that MDPs threaten the independence of the legal profession.
The policy statement goes on to say that client confidentiality and avoiding conflict would be jeopardised if associations between lawyers and non-lawyers were permitted. The CCBE has therefore decided that integrated cooperation should not be permitted.
The statement comes only months after the Law Society voted overwhelmingly in favour of permitting full MDPs in the UK.
Last October the Society's council voted to work towards "allowing solicitors...to provide any legal service through any medium to anyone" (The Lawyer, 18 October 1999).
The UK Law Society was the only member of the CCBE to register an objection to the CCBE's policy.
But a Law Society spokesman says that the CCBE's decision will not affect the Society's own approach.
He says: "Just because we are on our own does not mean we are wrong. MDPs need to be seen in an international context but we are still going ahead with our review."
He adds that the CCBE's views are too guarded.
He says: "MDPs do pose some risks of undermining the independence of solicitors. But these risks can be avoided and are not insuperable.
"We have taken a view that they should be allowed as long as clients and consumers are protected."
Although the policy statement expressly forbids MDPs it does tip its hat to the importance of promoting freedom of economic activity.