Leader: Courting the lawyers over MDPs
The announcement that the European Court of Justice is to be asked to remove the last obstacles to multidisciplinary practices is likely to herald the reshaping of the accountancy profession across Europe.
PricewaterhouseCoopers’ decision to go to court to force the Dutch legal profession to drop its opposition to MDPs will have repercussions well beyond the Netherlands.
Dutch lawyers have always been the most implacable opponents of MDPs.
By taking them on, PwC hopes to clear the decks in the rest of Europe where opposition has been less fierce. In the UK, the Law Society has softened its position and will to look at the issue. Apart from in Holland, it is probably not necessary to get a European Court ruling to make continental lawyers change their minds. But the force of such a ruling is likely to add impetus to the MDP movement.
Once the bandwagon starts to roll, we can expect to see big accountancy firms swallowing up second-tier law firms. In some countries the takeovers will be the other way round. Businesses want quality proactive advice and in countries where accountants have failed to shake off the bookkeeper image, the lawyers will emerge on top.
In the UK, MDPs pose the biggest threat to mid-tier accountancy firms.
They will also mean new and wider choices for anance directors of medium-sized companies. And for accountants everywhere, life will never be the same again.