The Big Question – FDs shun lawyer-accountants

Big Five hopes of establishing multidisciplinary partnerships were dealt a heavy blow this week after a majority of finance directors said they opposed firms that combined lawyers and accountants, writes Nick Huber.

The Law Society is expected to lift its ban on multi-disciplinary practices in the summer, a move that will usher in a new regime for professional services firms.

But in this week’s Accountancy Age/Reed Accountancy Personnel The Big Question, only 33% of FDs of small and medium-sized businesses said that they would hire a lawyer from the same firm that does their audit.

Of the 51% who opposed mixed practices, most believed that they would compromise an auditor’s duty to offer independent advice.

‘The conflict of interest is potentially very high,’ said Jean Hill of G&A Computer Services.

Another respondent, who asked to remain anonymous, said: ‘I might want to confide my most business secrets to my lawyer. I wouldn’t let my auditor in on the act until I had covered my bases.’

But 33% of finance directors welcomed the prospect. Jan O’Connor of machine distributor Contax said: ‘The idea of a one-stop shop will be particularly beneficial to SMEs.’

Related reading