THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF LAWYERS
AND CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS
THE ABA COMMISSION ON MULTIDISCIPLINARY PRACTICE
July 13, 1999
The National Conference of Lawyers and Certified Public Accountants (the "Conference") is the official liaison body between the American Bar Association and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, consisting of nine members of each profession appointed by the Presidents of the respective organizations. Its purpose is to foster excellence of professional performance in the public interest by providing a forum for identifying, discussing and proposing recommendations for the resolution of public issues of professional concern between the two professions. Over the years the Conference has devoted much of its time and effort to analyzing problems arising at the points of intersection of the practices of the two professions, including the issues which have concerned the ABA Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice (the "Commission").
The Conference commends the Commission for its extraordinary efforts over the past year. As was apparent from the March 11, 1999, Statement to the Commission by the Conference’s co-chairs, the members of the Conference favor the recognition of multidisciplinary practices ("MDPs") as a reality and as being in the best interests of the public and of the professions, so long as such recognition can be achieved without impairing the essential values of either profession. We view the Recommendations of the Commission as taking a very positive step forward towards the achievement of this result, and we urge the adoption of the Recommendations by the ABA House of Delegates.
We recognize that only the Recommendations will be acted upon by the House. We also recognize that working out the details necessary to implement the principles embodied in the Recommendations will be difficult. We view the Commission’s Report, the Reporter’s Notes and the illustrations of possible amendments to the Model Rules as providing an essential starting point, but we urge further consideration, consultation and deliberation. If, as the Report indicates and as is inherent in the Recommendations, MDPs can offer the public and the professions benefits which cannot now be obtained, as a practical matter, the rules to be developed must implement the Recommendations rather then impose new barriers; i.e., they must be reasonable, they must be realistic, and they should not be overly onerous on any practitioners, particularly solo practitioners or lawyers in small firms who may constitute the group with the most to gain from the adoption of the Recommendations.
Moreover, to establish rules which purport to govern both of the professions represented by the Conference without direct participation by representatives of both professions does not comport with reality. The unilateral imposition of standards which must be met by the accounting profession if its practitioners are to participate in MDPs will simply not work. In our view, there must be reasonable modifications of some of the rules and standards of both professions in order to bring about the harmonization which will be necessary. We believe that such harmonization is possible without impairing the legal profession’s core values of loyalty and objectivity.
This is not the time or the forum for a detailed exposition of our views of the rules to be adopted in order to achieve the goals we seek. We hope that an appropriate forum will be established in which there is participation by authorized representatives of both professions to attempt to work the devil out of the details in a manner which will provide a reasonable, workable protocol for the twenty-first century.