The Leader column

So the Law Society has just agreed to speed up moves towards allowing multidisciplinary partnerships (MDPs). Given the usual rate of change down in Chancery Lane, this presumably means that our grandchildren may have the honour of working hand in hand with an accountant.

Its interim measure is a proposition to allow solicitors to link up with other professions, but only if solicitors are in the majority and only if the other professions become subject to the Law Society's jurisdiction. Presumably, this is because the Law Society is much better at regulating the legal profession than any other professional body is at minding its own members.

Funny that, because the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors is under yet another final warning to clean up its act from the Office of Fair Trading. The public perception of lawyers is that they stand up for their own and that any complaints fall on deaf ears.

The activities of the Law Society itself over the past year have not exactly screamed professionalism and integrity at the general public. When you have headlines in the national press telling of alleged internal squabbles and discrimination, can you really expect accountants, consultants et al to meekly submit to playing the game the Law Society's way?

There are of course serious questions over whether allowing MDPs would damage the legal profession. Not least as to whether a lawyer working within such a setup would be able to question bad advice from another member of the MDP.

But many arguments against MDPs seem to assume that it is up to lawyers to stand up against the bad practices of other professions.Perhaps the Law Society needs to get its act in order before it can start preaching to the legally "unwashed", and should try to ensure that those smaller practices that could suffer under the introduction of MDPs survive.

If other professions prove to be more accessible and accountable to clients, then once the inevitable occurs and full MDPs are allowed, the legal profession could seriously lose out.

Fiona Callister, news editor