The ABA’s Commission on Ethics 20/20 just issued its long awaited discussion paper on admitting nonlawyers as partners to law firms. Frankly, these guys, who are certainly smart and dedicated, just don’t get it.
The Commission’s proposals do not adequately address the needs of law firms, consumers of legal services or the very small audience of potential nonlawyer partners in law firms.
The Commission continues to kick the can down the road on a more pressing issue, namely alternative business structures under which law firms can raise money by going public and by receiving significant equity investments from private equity sources.
Instead it proposes to continue to limit law firms to providing legal services and eschews multidisciplinary practices. Yet, the fact is that law firms through subsidiaries do conduct multidisciplinary practices.
In addition, the suggestions that by permitting extremely limited numbers of nonlawyer partners in law firms, subject to the control of the firms partner-lawyers, US law firms will “better be able to compete in the global marketplace” (yes, no kidding, they really said that) shows a complete lack of comprehension of what is now transpiring in that marketplace.
Providers of legal services are continuing to evolve and have demonstrated terrific agility in either circumventing existing rules or simply ignoring them.
This Commission white paper shows a complete suspension of conscious reality.
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