In house: Accountants must not get upper hand, warns C&G head of legal

THE chairman of the Law Society's commerce and industry group has called on solicitors to make the most of multi-disciplinary partnerships (MDPs) and to make sure that accountants “don't get it all their own way”.

Speaking at the annual dinner of the commerce and industry group's North West division, Paul Gilbert, head of legal at Cheltenham & Gloucester, said: “MDPs will come whether you want them to or not.”

Describing MDPs as a “wonderful, exciting and profitable” opportunity for the legal profession, he told the 240 guests: “If we choose to do nothing about them, they will be dominated by the accountants.”

“I for one am fed-up of accountants running business when I believe lawyers should be just as prominent in the business world.”

Gilbert added that, as an in-house lawyer, he is constantly being called upon to work as part of a multi-disciplinary team, often including a lawyer, businessman, IT expert and an accountant.

In his speech Gilbert also called on solicitors to address the issue of low morale in the legal profession and to “no longer cross-subsidise the incompetent and the dishonest”.

“I think it is a fantastic career,” he said.

“But you wouldn't think so if you had been to the Solicitors' National Conference in Bournemouth in October.”

He added: “Speaker after speaker could hardly find anything positive to say: the government is out to get us; the lenders are out to get us; the accountants are out to get us; the estate agents are out to get us; even, the Law Society is out to get us.”

“You felt like saying 'Come on guys. Don't just moan. If it's that bad, don't do it'.”

Meanwhile, the commerce and industry group has appointed Edward Smethurst, senior legal adviser at British Nuclear Fuels, as its vice-chairman.

Smethurst will become chairman when Gilbert steps down in July next year.