Leader – Making a case for MDPs

Many senior partners in the big firms think having lawyers round the partnership table makes a lot of sense. This week’s news that a Law Society poll has produced a clear majority of solicitors in favour of creating multidisciplinary practices is clearly good news for them. But is it good news for the profession as a whole? And, more importantly, is it what clients really want?

Clients, of course, want different things in different situations. A UK company opening an office in Azerbaijan almost certainly wants a one-stop shop which will provide advice on structuring the business, paying local taxes and staying within local laws. But the same client contemplating a major acquisition within the UK almost certainly wants legal advice that is independent of a firm which may audit or provide other advice to the target company.

If the stakes are really high then only the top legal brains will do, irrespective of whether they belong to the company’s professional advice firm or not. To say nothing of the colossal conflicts of interest that may arise if the audit firm’s lawyers are called in to advise on how much the company is obliged to tell the auditors.

However desirable MDPs may be to some clients they require much more thought. It may be that they will only work outside the UK. Or it may be that the big firms will have to invest much more effort in building really effective Chinese walls before business decides MDPs are worth the risk.

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