Are verein-style law firms ignoring ethics rules regarding fee-splitting?
Edwin B. Reeser and Martin J. Foley
October 1, 2013
(Reprinted with permission of The ABA Journal, 2013)
The last nine years have witnessed remarkable developments in national, international and global law firm business operation constructs. Among these, since 2004, are a number of Swiss verein structures, which have been adopted by several firms: Hogan Lovells, Baker & McKenzie, DLA Piper, Squire Sanders and Norton Rose Fulbright.
A verein is an association of independent legal entities for specifically defined purposes—generally, marketing and branding in nature. Financial separation and local entity independence of control for each verein member law firm is confirmed in the verein’s governing documents, and reaffirmed in dedicated disclaimer and notice sections prominently featured on the website of every verein member, along with the important note that the verein itself does not practice law anywhere.
Verein structures for law firms are growing rapidly in number, and by lawyer headcount. The majority of law firm vereins have been formed since 2008 and already account for more than 20,000 lawyers worldwide.
In this column we are taking a discerning look at law vereins and serious ethical questions in their operation. We intend a more extensive and detailed review of verein structures and ethics rules in the near future.
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