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Copyright 2000 Robert J. Ambrogi  

Web Sites Serve Debate Over Multidisciplinary Practice

By Robert J. Ambrogi

For three-quarters of a century, it has been an unquestioned tenet of legal ethics that lawyers should not create partnerships with non-lawyers to deliver legal services. That took a radical turn last June, when an American Bar Association commission unanimously recommended that lawyers be allowed to partner with professionals from other disciplines.

The ABA Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice urged that the Model Rules of Professional Conduct be changed to allow fee-sharing between lawyers and other owners of multidisciplinary practices, such as accounting firms. It recommended applying legal ethics rules to these entities, commonly known as MDPs, and subjecting them to court regulation.

The ABA House of Delegates later rejected the change in the Model Rules, instead sending the matter back to the commission for further study of whether such practices would further the public interest without sacrificing lawyer independence and loyalty.

But the commission’s report nonetheless brought the matter firmly to the forefront of important issues facing the profession. As ABA President William G. Paul of Oklahoma City put it, “This may well be the most important issue the legal profession has faced in many, many years.”

If so, it is incumbent on legal professionals to become fully informed about the pros and cons of MDPs and come to their own conclusions about whether to permit them. For lawyers seeking to educate themselves on this issue, what better place to turn than the Web, where a host of Web sites can be found devoted to the debate on MDPs.

What better place to begin than the Web site of the ABA commission that caused all the stir, Here you can find the full text of the commission’s June 8, 1999, report, as well as a transcript of the debate by the House of Delegates during the ABA’s annual meeting in Atlanta last August. The site also details proceedings of the commission both leading up to its report and subsequent to the House of Delegates’ vote, and includes a calendar of upcoming hearings and meetings. Also here is a bibliography on MDPs and links to other sites focusing on the issue.

Another good starting point is the Multidisciplinary Practices page of the legal portal Hieros Gamos, It includes links to ethics codes, seminars and papers on the MDP issue.

Bar Association Sites

As debate about the issue has grown in urgency around the country, many state and local bar associations have created their own MDP committees, and along with those have come bar-sponsored Web sites devoted to MDPs.

Among the more substantive of these are the Florida Bar’s Special Committee on Multidisciplinary Practice,, which includes several articles and reports. Others worth a vist include the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Task Force on Multidisciplinary Practice,, which has articles and task force proceedings; the New York State Bar Association’s Special Committee on Multi-Disciplinary Practice and the Legal Profession,, which offers a comprehensive report; and the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Multidisciplinary Commission,, which includes that commission’s report and recommendations.

Other bar associations are using the Web to encourage discussion of the MDP issue. The Massachusetts Bar Association, for example, has created a Multidisciplinary Practice Center,, which includes a bulletin board on which members can post comments on the issue. The Colorado Bar Association and the Denver Bar Association have formed a Joint Task Force on Multidisciplinary Practice,, which, among other undertakings, hosts a listserv on MDP.

Among other bar sites focusing on MDP are those of the State Bar of Georgia Committee on Multidisciplinary Practice,, the South Carolina Bar Association Taskforce on Multidisciplinary Practice,, the Wisconsin Bar Multidisciplinary Practice Committee,, the North Carolina Task Force on Multi-Disciplinary Practices,, the Orange County Bar Association Task Force on Multidisciplinary Practice,, and the Utah State Bar MDP Task Force,

Last May, a group of legal experts from the worlds of journalism, firm management, accounting, and consulting met at the London office of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue for a roundtable discussion focusing on the future of multidisciplinary practices. You can listen to the entire discussion, courtesy of Levick Strategic Communications, at You will need the free RealPlayer plug in for your browser.

Articles and Reports

There are a number of articles available online examing the MDP issue. The best single collection comes from the pages of the Minnesota State Bar Association’s magazine Bench & Bar. It devoted an entire issue to the topic, and posted the articles online at:

Other informative articles are:

Finally, several bars and individuals have posted positions papers or testimony that elaborate on issues of concern regarding MDPs. Among these: