Multi-Disciplinary Practices (MDPs)
WHEREAS in 1997 the Canadian Bar Association established the International Practice of Law Committee, whose mandate includes recommending a policy framework to the CBA concerning multi-disciplinary practices (MDPs) which offer legal services;
WHEREAS MDPs are business arrangements in which lawyers 1 and non-lawyers practice together to provide a broad range of advice, including legal advice, to consumers, and which encompass a variety of forms, from highly integrated organizations with lawyers and non-lawyers working under one ownership structure to loose referral networks;
WHEREAS the Committee issued its report in August 1999, entitled Striking a Balance;
BE IT RESOLVED THAT:
- Lawyers should be permitted to practice in MDPs provided that the MDPs delivery of legal services is controlled by lawyers.
- Lawyers should be permitted to share fees with non-lawyers in MDPs.
- The relevant law society 2 should require MDPs to obtain a licence as a condition to offering legal services. Licences should be conditional on the MDP satisfying the law society that it has taken all reasonable steps to comply with the core values, ethical obligations, standards and rules of professional conduct of the legal profession. The law society should be empowered to suspend or withdraw an MDPs licence to offer legal services in the event of non-compliance.
- MDPs should be regulated under comprehensive principles which apply to MDPs whether the MDPs are fully integrated partnerships, involve "captive" or "affiliated" law firms, operate under the same trade name as another firm or otherwise are held out to the public as constituting one firm or having integrated management or business relations.
- MDPs should be required to adhere to the core values, ethical obligations, standards and rules of professional conduct of the legal profession. These include, but are not limited to, respect for the confidentiality of client information, protection of solicitor-client privilege and avoidance of conflicts of interest.
- MDPs should be required to ensure that they comply with the core values, ethical obligations, standards and rules of professional conduct of the legal profession and remain responsible for their failure to do so. Lawyers should not practice in an MDP that fails to comply with these requirements.
- Law societies should require that the MDP:
- advises clients that the firm includes those who are not subject to the legal professions values, obligations, standards and rules; and
- maintains insurance for each lawyer practising in the MDP that is:
- of at least the same nature, scope and quantum as that required for other practising lawyers; and
- of such a nature and quantum that no additional risks are added to the insurance coverage carried for lawyers by or on behalf of the law society than would be the case were the lawyers in the MDP not practising with non-lawyers.
- Law societies should develop rules for ensuring that lawyers do not practise in MDPs with other service providers having conflicting ethical responsibilities. For instance, lawyers practising in MDPs should not provide legal services to clients who retain the MDP for auditing services.
- The CBA and law societies should develop rules which will address:
- the protection and preservation of solicitor-client privilege and confidentiality and the avoidance of conflicts of interest within MDPs, and in this latter regard those rules ought to consider every client of the MDP also to be the client of each lawyer within it; and
- the obligation of lawyers practising in MDPs to maintain the secrecy and confidentiality of a clients affairs and documents when others in the firm may be subject to statutory or regulatory disclosure obligations.
- Only lawyers and Quebec notaries should be permitted to practice law in MDPs. Law society regulation governing the unauthorized practice of law should apply to MDPs.
Certified true copy of a resolution carried as amended by the Council of the Canadian Bar Association at the Annual Meeting held in Halifax, NS, August 19-20, 2000.
John D.V. Hoyles
1"Lawyer" includes Quebec notaries throughout.
2"Law society" refers throughout to all provincial and territorial governing bodies of the legal profession, including the Barreau du Québec and the Chambre des notaires.