Oral Testimony of Jon Stokholm,
President of the Danish Bar and Law Society,
Before the American Bar Association
Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice
August 8, 1999
The next speaker to take the microphone was Jon Stokholm, President of the Danish Bar and Law Society. Former head of the Danish delegation to the CCBE (Council of the Law Societies of the European Union), he raised a couple of issues. What the world is seeing is a result of a worldwide corporate strategy by the Big Five accounting firms - they are simply taking any step politically, lobby-wise, nationally, worldwide. They do not see this as a legal problem; they see this simply as a management problem and do not care about legal considerations. He thinks lawyers sometimes should analyze this problem with the same tool as accountants are, just to check whether lawyers are taking the right position as a profession. What is happening now is the Big Five are utilizing the differences of the national laws in Europe and throughout the world, so lawyers are subject not only to what is called the salami method, but also to the domino doctrine. And everything works in the Big Five's favor.
What the Big Five are going for is the lucrative business. They made it quite clear in their official paper in Denmark that they would be happy to leave to the lawyers the core legal business - criminal cases, family law - lawyers can have that. They will take the rest. This has a bearing on the true weight of the two-track method that lawyers can either practice in the traditional way or go into the multidisciplinary partnership. What will happen is that the traditional practitioner will be left with all the cases that are not lucrative. And this would happen very simply. The multidisciplinary firm would get its business on the back of the monopoly that the accounting firm has in performing accounting services. As all corporations must in most jurisdictions have an accountant, this monopoly will serve as a channel for the lucrative business to the multidisciplinary partnership. He asked the Commission to investigate whether those two kinds of firms - the traditional firm and the multidisciplinary firm - would have an equal chance at competition. He thinks there is a problem there. There is a difference between lawyers and accountants. It can be seen on the TV screen; whereas everyone has seen the serious court lawyer he has never seen a serious court accountant. Why is that? There is a cultural and a personal difference; he doesn't know how that can be reconciled in a happy way in an MDP. Will the MDP be able to attract the very best lawyers? He doubts it. He urged that the Commission be very careful about the policing issue (that others have raised). In Norway, because policing is very weak and there is no legal monopoly, anyone can render legal services, which the accountants do (it has been called accounting law). The Big Five always go to the limits and always use the most ridiculous circumvention of any kind of law. U.S. lawyers will see that too when the phenomenon hits the legal culture, the practice of law, in the U.S. "Have fun."