September 1, 1999
Mr. Arthur Garwin
American Bar Association
Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice
541 North Fairbanks Court
Chicago, Illinois 60611
Dear Mr. Garwin:
The Association of Management Consulting Firms (AMCF) applauds the efforts of you and your Commission on Multidisciplinary Practices for your work in grappling with the need to maintain high professional standards while accommodating client demands for centralized, multidisciplinary partnerships among their service providers. We feel the recent Commission report, recognizing the need for such multidisciplinary practices, is a significant step in the right direction and identifies issues we must resolve to attain our common goal: providing the best, most cost-effective service to our clients while maintaining the standards of each profession.
The AMCF has, as does the ABA, an enforceable Code of Ethics to which our members agree to adhere and we are most concerned that the ethical practices it reflects continue to prevail in our management consulting work.
We are concerned, however, with some of your commission's recommendations, including imposition of existing ABA rules of legal conduct, without recognition of the differences between traditional legal practice and emerging multidisciplinary practices. Traditional conflict-of-interest rules for law firms, for example, have been, and continue to be, appropriate in situations where the client's rights may conflict with the rights of a competitor and a law firm might be forced to represent one client in court to the detriment of another.
But multidisciplinary practices normally do not deal with adjudication of rights. Rather, they generally deal with provision of best counsel in various business areas: accounting, tax, communications, human resources, management practices and the law as it applies to business practice. Requiring a consulting firm with a legal component to adhere to traditional law firm no-conflict rules fails to recognize the situational differences.
AMCF also finds your report's recommendations regarding certification and auditing requirements troublesome. In particular, we are concerned about the requirement for an annual audit and certification of multi-disciplinary practices encompassing attorneys. This requirement would constitute an unnecessary regulatory burden. There is no demonstrated need for such audits, nor would they enhance the quality of service to clients. Furthermore, to ensure a level playing field, any recommendation for such annual audits should apply equally to law firms to avoid disadvantaging other professional service firms.
We find those provisions troubling but not insurmountable. We would be pleased to work with you and other professional associations representing multidisciplinary professional services to draft umbrella standards that would recognize the character of this new structure of service provision, the content and intent of all of our current professional standards documents and the varied and evolving needs of our clients.
We would welcome the opportunity to work with you on this endeavor and believe other professional associations would as well.
A. W. (Pete) Smith, Jr.