The world's Bar leaders have for the first time conceded that partnerships between accountants and lawyers could be permitted – with restrictions.

Bar leaders, meeting in private at the International Bar Association (IBA) last week, agreed Bar Associations were within their rights to ban MDPs, but also said that they could be permitted.

The IBA's standing committee on MDPs suggested three restrictions under which accountancy-lawyer partnerships could be permitted: they should not provide both auditing services and legal advice to the same client; they should be subject to the same regulatory rules as legal firms; and they must warn their clients that they cannot guarantee the same confidentiality as law firms.

The IBA's stance reflects a change in attitude among the majority of conference delegates that MDPs are inevitable.

Bar Council chairman Robert Owen QC said his profession would maintain its ban on partnerships but added: “MDPs are going to happen – the real question is how they are going to be regulated.”

See report page 5.