Queensland looks set to become the second Australian state, after New South Wales, to reform its legal practices legislation, opening the door to multidisciplinary partnerships (MDPs) and alternative funding arrangements.
Attorney General Rod Welford announced last week that he hoped the changes would take
effect by the beginning of next year.
As well as introducing MDPs, the changes would allow firms to be funded by shareholders and governed by company law, rather than operate under a traditional partnership structure.
A Queensland government report in February said: “The two issues, incorporation and MDPs, tend to be considered simultaneously because the structure of an MDP will likely be a corporate one in order to attract investors, where not all of the shareholders and directors will be lawyers, and they may wish to limit their liability and they will wish to share income.”
The only other state to allow MDPs is New South Wales, where legal practices are also allowed to float on the stock exchange and raise capital for expansion. Over time, though, it looks like the whole country will move towards more relaxed legislation.
The Law Council of Australia has publicly supported the MDP structure, addressing the conflict of interest concerns by saying that regulation to protect the interest of consumers and protection of the course of justice should focus on individual lawyers rather than the structure of the business.
Despite this relaxed attitude towards corporate structures, the MDP concept has met with a cool response from the larger firms. “The largest firms are more sceptical and would tend to merge only with other very large global top-tier firms,” said the report.