STATEMENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DEFENSE COUNSEL
TO THE ABA COMMISSION ON MULTIDISCIPLINARY PRACTICE
My name is Richard P. Campbell. I am a partner with Campbell, Campbell & Edwards, a trial practice law firm with offices in Boston and other New England cities. I am honored to appear before you on behalf of the International Association of Defense Counsel, to applaud the Commission for the diligence, intensity, and timeliness of its work, and to express our Association’s interest in the subject of multidisciplinary practice. I am also here, however, to make known our Association’s concern that all segments of the bar have adequate time to study the ramifications of proposed changes to the Code of Professional Responsibility that would permit multidisciplinary partnerships ("MDP’s") to operate across the broad array of diverse areas collectively called the practice of law.
The International Association of Defense Counsel is the oldest and most prestigious international organization of attorneys representing corporations, insurers, and insureds in the resolution of disputes in jury and non-jury trials. It is comprised of approximately 2400 attorneys who attain membership by invitation and only after in-depth review of their qualifications and professionalism by their peers in the jurisdictions where they practice and by the Association’s Executive Committee. Its members, for the most part, are leading civil defense trial lawyers as well as corporate and insurance executives from the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, and Italy.
The International Association of Defense Counsel serves its members and their clients in numerous and plenary ways, including continuing legal education, the annual Defense Counsel Trial Academy at the University of Colorado in Boulder, the Corporate Counsel College in Dallas, and the Defense Counsel Journal. The Association is committed to the right to jury trial, the cornerstone of the civil justice system in the United States, a system that is the envy of freedom-loving people throughout the world. The fundamental underpinnings of the jury trial system are zealous advocacy of trial counsel (tempered by the independent judgment of counsel, the tenets of professionalism and the duties owed to the Court) and the protection of client confidences. The International Association of Defense Counsel actively pursues legal reform when appropriate and in the best interests of society as a whole. Currently, for example, the Association through its Foundation is engaged in a national jury innovations project that seeks to enhance the quality of jury service for citizens called for that purpose and, ultimately, to help assure the rendition of substantial justice for all parties. It is because your Commission proposes innovation and legal reforms potentially affecting the jury trial system that our Association appears before you today to express its interest and concern.
At the present time, the International Association of Defense Counsel believes that adoption of the Commission’s proposed changes to the Code of Professional Responsibility is premature.
The Code is the source of most state ethical considerations and disciplinary rules that apply to every attorney regardless of her area of expertise, the location of her law offices, the size and complexity of her partnership (if indeed she has any partners), and the interest her clients may have in the globalization of large scale business. Similarly, the Code governs the professional conduct of every lawyer whether she is engaged to handle significant litigation for individuals or major institutional clients or (more likely) never sets foot in a courtroom at any time in her career. Our Association, comprised as it is of trial lawyers, recognizes that changes to the Code allowing the creation of multidisciplinary partnerships may well have beneficial effects for its members and the clients they serve. One of the obvious potential benefits to institutional clients defending generic litigation is the reduction in costs and fees attendant to increased efficiencies in the delivery of legal services by a centrally located or controlled MDP. A consequent potential benefit to lawyers and their firms is enhanced profitability through the elimination of otherwise redundant overhead. On the hand, our Association envisions the possibility of influences being brought to bear on the trial attorney (by MDP partners with business interests adverse to the client represented in the action at bar) that may diminish her zealous advocacy and taint her independent judgment. The Association’s Tenets of Professionalism instruct us otherwise:
"We will not permit business concerns to undermine or corrupt our professional obligations".
Likewise, our Association is troubled by the ability to protect client confidences within a diverse organization of lawyers and non-lawyers, particularly in an era where the attorney-client privilege is constantly under attack.
The International Association Defense Counsel is yet unsure that MDP’s will enhance the confidence that citizens of the United States have in their civil justice system. For example, a multidisciplinary partnership between an accomplished personal injury trial attorney and the trauma physicians, neurosurgeons, and orthopedic surgeons of a Level 1 Trauma Center may help assure the delivery of competent legal services to a severely injured plaintiff at an early stage in the life of his incipient claim. But what will be the ramifications of such a business alliance to the level of confidence that the general public harbors in the civil justice system generally? The implicit trust of the public in the integrity of the system may well be (unwittingly) put at risk by the change in the Code that the Commission puts forth.
Because the Commission performed its work on this important subject with impressive efficiency and diligence, the bar generally (and the International Association of Defense Counsel in particular) needs time to assess your findings and conclusions and to evaluate the their implications on the day-to-day practice of law. The New York State Bar Association’s Special Committee On Multi-disciplinary Practice and The Legal Profession concluded its January 8, 1999 report on MDP’s (at pages 2 and 3) by holding that it would be imprudent for it to make any recommendations without further empirical investigation and analysis. The Committee recognized that "the issues presented by multi-disciplinary practice are extraordinarily complex" and "of enormous importance to the legal profession because they have the potential to transform the profession". We agree. And we urge the Commission to request the ABA House of Delegates to defer until the Mid-Year Meeting its consideration of your proposed changes to the Code of Professional Responsibility.
Thank for providing me with this opportunity to address you.