Law forums discuss MDP challenges

The Law Societies of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern and Southern Ireland meet this week in Dublin to exchange views on multi-disciplinary partnerships (MDPs).

The summit is part of a two-year process in which the societies have considered ways of lifting the ban on law firms merging with other professions, such as accountants, surveyors and estate agents.

The meeting comes as a Financial Times-commissioned survey reveals that more than half of the UK and US's big corporate buyers of legal services are willing to use a firm that combines lawyers and accountants.

The four societies have set up working parties to explore the issue.

Ian Stubbs, chairman of the Scottish group, says it will allow the parties to exchange views and gauge feelings about MDPs among lawyers in each region.

Stubbs says: “MDPs are not things that can be stopped but public interest, particularly with regard to confidentiality and conflicts of interest, needs to be protected and these are areas we need to explore.”

He said issues regarding complaints procedures, compensation funds and the regulation of MDPs have had to be addressed by the parties.

“The fact that we have been working independently of each other will make it very interesting to see how ideas have developed,” he says.

He adds that although the issue is somewhat “up in the air” at present, after each country has worked out its own sections, they would look to see if they could be built up into a standardised international framework.

A spokesman from the Law Society of England and Wales says a paper on MDPs will go before its council next month.