January 25, 2000
American Bar Association
Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice
541 North Fairbanks Court
Chicago, IL 60611
PICPA Council, at its December 8, 1999 meeting, reviewed the report of the American Bar Association's Commission on Multidisciplinary Practices, and adopted the enclosed resolution. Many PICPA members, both in public practice and industry, are interested in the expanded opportunities and potential for additional choices in the selection of professional services that may result from multidisciplinary arrangements with lawyers. We are sending this resolution because Council determined it should communicate its reactions and concerns to the Pennsylvania Bar Association, as there are some provisions in the Commission’s proposal that have the potential to adversely affect our members.
A copy of this resolution is also being sent to the American Bar Association, urging it to work with the AICPA to address our concerns and develop a workable framework for multidisciplinary practice. We trust the Pennsylvania Bar Association will recognize our concerns and encourage the American Bar Association to address these issues.
Thank you for your cooperation concerning this matter.
Gary R. Claus, CPA
PENNSYLVANIA INSTITUTE OF
CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS
December 8, 1999
RESOLVED, that the PICPA applauds and supports the vision of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Multidisciplinary Practices ( the "Commission") in recognizing the need to broaden the choice clients have in choosing their professionals and to make available to clients fully integrated multidisciplinary solutions to their problems; and be it
FURTHER RESOLVED that the PICPA Council supports amendment of the ABA Model Rules to allow lawyers and non-lawyers to form partnerships and share fees with one another; and be it
FURTHER RESOLVED that the PICPA Council objects to and opposes the regulatory approach to multidisciplinary practices recommended by the Commission. We believe the Commission’s approach will have the exact opposite of its desired effect by significantly restricting client choice and impairing the formation of multidisciplinary practices. Specifically:
The PICPA objects to the definition of the practice of law proposed by the Commission. This definition is a dramatic expansion of the current understanding of the practice of law, and captures within its ambit services –in particular tax related services- that historically and properly have been performed by PICPA members and their firms. Under this new definition, accountants may find themselves suddenly charged with the unauthorized practice of law in areas of their practice which, under federal law, they have specifically been given the right to practice. Additionally, individuals licensed as lawyers, and those who are both lawyers and CPAs, would be regulated as lawyers even though they do not hold themselves out as lawyers and do not create any client expectation that an attorney-client relationship is created. We understand that the Commission based its definition "in great part" on the rule in the District of Columbia, but we take issue with the Commission’s exclusions of the exceptions and commentary to the D.C. rule which would have ameliorated much of our concern in this regard.
The PICPA further objects, as clearly inappropriate and overreaching, to the Commission’s proposal to unilaterally impose the legal rules of conduct on accounting firms that include lawyer. This in turn has the potential to subject any accounting firm that employs an individual licensed as a lawyer to the rules of the legal profession, including the legal profession’s rules concerning conflicts of interest and solicitation of clients, for all firm engagements. This would create situations in the same circumstances where none existed before.
The PICPA further objects to the Commission’s disregard of the extensive ethical codes applicable to other professionals, including CPAs and to its unilateral imposition of the legal rules of conduct on firms governed by such other ethical codes.
The PICPA further objects to the Commission’s proposal that every multidisciplinary practice not controlled by lawyers be subject to an annual certification and audit requirement in every jurisdiction where it delivers legal services (particularly as those services are redefined by the Commission.) This requirement has the potential to subject non-lawyer controlled multidisciplinary firms to certification and audits in 50 states. There is no evidence that supports the need for such onerous regulatory oversight. If the ABA concludes that enforcement of the legal profession’s rules of conduct can only be accomplished by the regulation of firms, the certification and audit requirements should apply to all firms that deliver legal services, including law firms; and be it
FURTHER RESOLVED that the PICPA Council strongly believes that the Commission’s proposal creates significant barriers to the development and operation of multidisciplinary practices and unnecessarily limits consumer choice in the purchase of professional services; and be it
FURTHER RESOLVED that the PICPA Council urges the ABA to work with the AICPA to formulate a workable regulatory framework for multidisciplinary practices.
Albert E. Trexler, CAE