Canadian Bar Association puts restrictions on MDPs

The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) has done a u-turn on its policy on multidisciplinary practices (MDPs). Instead of accepting them wholeheartedly, it will accept them only if lawyers are in control.

The move brings the CBA in line with the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), the controlling body for Toronto and thus nearly half of the country’s lawyers, which had pushed for more conditions should MDPs be allowed.

Now the CBA recommends that MDPs should be permitted only if lawyers have effective control over the practice and business of the MDP.

That means that every client of the MDP will also be considered a client of each lawyer within the MDP.

The CBA has no regulatory powers, but the local law societies are expected to follow its recommendations.

Barry Gorlick, former president of the CBA, says: “We’d said that MDPs under our old proposed policy would be all right, regardless of whether lawyers controlled them or not. This is a shift where we’re suggesting that when law societies structure their rules, this should be an important consideration.”

He says this decision marks the end of the CBA’s involvement on the issue.

“Our committee considered in some depth the views of not only the LSUC, but continued our consultative process and really ultimately it became a form of consensus that caused us to change, driven by those views of the LSUC,” he says.

He adds: “This will be our policy now, and what happens next is that the various societies will decide what to do with it. To all intents and purposes, this ends the process for our international law committee on the issue.”

John Laskin, a business litigation partner at Torys, says: “The CBA’s position now harmonises them with that of the LSUC, and means that it’s quite likely other jurisdictions in Canada will do similar. To that extent, it makes a greater measure of regulatory uniformity across Canada.

“The CBA has considerable influence when it comes to policies for regulating the profession, and the fact that it’s opted more clearly for lawyer control means that MDPs in Canada are likely to follow that model.”