March 14, 2000
Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice
Center for Professional Responsibility
American Bar Association
541 North Fairbanks Court
Chicago, Illinois 60611-3314
Dear Members of the Commission:
As small business owners, we would like to express our views on multidisciplinary partnerships. Small businesses are a powerful force in today’s economy both nationally and globally. The challenges in starting and maintaining a successful small business are enormous. As consumers of professional services, we need accessible, cost-effective providers to help us develop comprehensive solutions. We believe that multidisciplinary partnerships offer the possibility to enhance competition among lawyers and other professionals, and competition brings better quality of service and reduced costs. We therefore urge the Commission to recommend revisions to the ethics rules of the legal profession to permit these relationships.
Small businesses range from home based businesses with 1 or 2 employees to 400 member high-tech firms. What they have in common is their huge success. These businesses employ 52 percent of private workers, 61 percent of the private workers on public assistance, and 38 percent of the private workers in high-tech occupations. Moreover, they provide virtually all of the net new jobs and 51 percent of the private sector output. These small businesses are creating substantial opportunities for women and minorities. With the increased accessibility of the Internet, these small businesses can now compete with larger companies in ways they could not before.
Small businesses will continue to be a major force in the business community. In order to be successful, we must deal with the numerous issues that no one professional has the expertise to address. For instance, the formation of a business often requires the services of a lawyer to draft incorporation papers and other legal documents; a financial advisor to help plan the best use of resources; a tax specialist to unravel the mysteries of the tax code; and accountant to keep the books; an insurance agent for worker’s compensation, property, and disability insurance; and information technology advisor to help set up appropriate systems; and perhaps even public relations, marketing and graphic design experts to create a logo, advertising and publicity strategies. Finding all of these professionals, educating each of them about the tasks, and reconciling their advice, is expensive and time-consuming.
Small businesses require quality services and honest, understandable, cost-effective advice from sources that they trust. Multidisciplinary practices could offer such services.
The time has come for lawyers to change their rules to permit these types of multidisciplinary teams. As consumers of professional services, we want choice among qualified providers that we trust. What counts for us is the quality of advice that we receive not the type of firm from which we receive the advice.
Multidisciplinary firms will not be the choice to address every problem. For some problems, such as litigation, a small business may be more comfortable retaining a stand-alone, independent law firm. For other issues, such as creating and implementing human resource policies, a small business may find that integrated services offered by a multidisciplinary firm provide the best overall value and convenience. That choice is one that should be made by the consumer of the legal service and not by the bar.
We are fully appreciative there are those lawyers who feel that multidisciplinary practices threaten the ethic rules of the legal profession, and that consumers of these services will be harmed if these rules are not maintained. As the consumers of the services being offered, we feel that this perception is outdated and can no longer be used to justify an outright prohibition of multidisciplinary firms.
In the last 15 years, the global market for goods and services has changed more than anytime in recorded history. No rule, no business, not even a profession can remain fixed in a time of such changes in the market. As small business owners, we must respond to market demands or perish. This does not mean that we have to compromise our principles. It simply means that we must adjust the way we do business.
As representatives of the nation’s millions of small business owners, we urge the legal profession to respond to the demands of the market, and change its rules so that consumers of legal services can have the flexibility to choose the service provider that can best meet their needs.
George Abbott, President of Aras Enterprises, LLC, Omaha, Nebraska
Ed Abersfeller, President of Storage Concepts, Inc., Omaha, Nebraska
Kerry Anderson, President of Die Works, Omaha, Nebraska
Patrick Beckham, President of Beckham Enterprises, Boca Raton, Florida
Gary Behler, President of State of Art Solutions, Schaumburg, Illinois
Allen Beychok, President of Benchmark Brands, Atlanta, Georgia
Janet Brooks, President of NMD of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
William Buff, Owner of Parklane Limousine Service, Woodbury, New Jersey
Bob Cann, President of Alpha Enterprises, Lincoln, Nebraska
Mike Craigo, President of Mil-Cam, San Antonio, Texas
Brad Crosby, President of Airlite Plastics, Omaha, Nebraska
Greg Cutchall, President of Cutchall Management, Omaha, Nebraska
Mark Deion, President of Deion Associates & Strategies, Warwick, Rhode Island
Fitzhugh Duer, President of Two Vicks Sport Shop, Glassboro, New Jersey
David Entrekin, President & CEO of OpticTrek.Com, Boca Raton, Florida
Dave Falzarano, President of American Micro Products, Cherry Hill, New Jersey
Jim Finn, President of Metro Machine & Tool, Omaha, Nebraska
Randy Gibson, President of Automation Associates, Solana Beach, California
Steve Gibbons, Personal Computer Consultant, Omaha, Nebraska
Kathy Gilreath, President of Macklin Products, Inc., Omaha, Nebraska
Ken Heller, President of NuTech Environmental Corporation, Denver, Colorado
Laura Henderson, President of Prospect Associates, Bethesda, Maryland
Sam Hope, President of Corporate Restructuring, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Tim Hodge, President of Hodge Material Handing, Dubuque, Iowa
David Horwitz, President of Consumer Products Management, Calabasas, California
Pat Kahm, President of Professional Resource Management, Lincoln, Nebraska
Jim Killips, President of Dakota Luggage, Tyndall, South Dakota
Jeff King, Owner Meineke Discount Muffler Franchise, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Joe Laux, Jr., President of Ormid International, Phoenix, Arizona
Bob Love, President of Love & Associates, Houston, Texas
Wayne Lewis, Owner of Lewis Installers, Omaha, Nebraska
Jan Limpach, President of Organizing Plus, Omaha, Nebraska
Kevin Lineham, President of Standard Beauty Supply, Omaha, Nebraska
Sharon Miller, President of Immediate Temporary Help, Midland, Michigan
Qwen Moore, President of GeM Communications, Los Angeles, California
Steve Olson, Manufacturing Concepts, Council Bluffs, Iowa
Leo Panzer, Senior Partner of Darst & Associates, Omaha, Nebraska
Ron Parks, President of Millard Manufacturing Corporation, Omaha, Nebraska
George Prest, President of Prest Rack, Brookings, South Dakota
Don Prochaska, President of Prochaska & Associates, Omaha, Nebraska
Pete Rademeyer, President of Ramsey International, Phoenix, Arizona
Dennis Rasmusson, President of Rasmusson Financial Group, Omaha, Nebraska
Dan Rybeck, Managing Director of A.S.I. Associates, Minneapolis, Minnesota
John C. Rennie, Vice Chairman of AverStar, Inc., Burlington, Massachusetts
Marc Skulnick, Owner Skulnick Jewelry, Pennsauken, New Jersey
Bill Swartzendruber, President of Option III, Inc., Omaha, Nebraska
Art Sweet, President A & E Development Company, Inc., Canoga Park, California
Richard Valdez, Attorney at Law, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Bob Walker, Walker’s Tree Farms, Orleans, Vermont
Steve Wolf, President of 1040 Corporation, Westville, New Jersey
Michael Yarusso, Owner Meineke Muffler Franchise, West Collingwood Heights, New Jersey