Stumbling over the MDP vision

The multidisciplinary partnership debate remains one of the key talking points for law firms at the moment as speculation continues about who is talking to whom.

But, as the Simmons & Simmons experience shows, the thought of getting into bed with an accountancy firm is still, in the end, an unpalatable thought for most major law practices.

There is no doubt that a number are happy to mull over the idea. But law firms, on the whole, still have to be convinced of the arguments in favour of it.

Arthur Andersen has persuaded many lawyers round the world that the legal supermarket is the way to go. But with Simmons, however, it was a case of "so near and yet so far". The failure of Arthur Andersen to get a major City firm on board is also a blow to other Big Six firms, which will need to hook some major players if multidisciplinary practices are to really get off the ground.

Although in Europe the accountants have picked up big firms, this has still to happen in London. There is no doubt that multidisciplinary practices are in the UK to stay. But the legal profession still has not got to grips with the issue.

When it comes down to it, becoming an employee in an organisation with many thousands of others does not appeal to everyone.

However, many fiercely independent firms in Europe have crossed this bridge and survived. To take the mdp route requires vision and courage. If the vision is not there, then the road is fraught with difficulties.

The failure to complete the Simmons & Simmons deal gives the legal profession a temporary breathing space. However, the day draws nearer when a Big Six accountant will manage to pull off such a coup.

This will be the real acid test for mdps.