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NOvA (NoGo) or Multi-Disintegrating Partnerships

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Multi-disciplinary partnerships (MDPs) have been a contentious issue for national and state bars for recent years. The English Law Society has finally agreed to promote them, in a limited fashion. Although the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association voted against them, certain states are going to permit them. No jurisdiction has yet embraced them fully and openly. The stereotypical model of an MDP is a merger between an accounting firm and a law firm. This could be at the small end of the spectrum, e.g., high street practices, or at the multinational end, e.g., a large City of London or New York law firm and one of the major global accounting firms. The most aggressive moves for MDPs have come from this latter segment. The former Big Five accounting firms—PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, Andersen, Ernst & Young and Deloitte Touche—have considered and attempted to start their own law firms, all with a view to integrating them into MDPs so as to offer one-stop shopping to their clients. While the dream of becoming masters of the universe preoccupied the Big Five, events, to paraphrase Harold Macmillan, acted against them. Two, especially, carry enormous significance and though on opposite sides of the Atlantic they are intertwined: first, the collapse of the energy trading company Enron in 2001, and the subsequent conviction of the Andersen firm in Texas for the wilful destruction of documents connected to Enron?s audits. This has led to draconian legislation by the US Congress, and signed into law by President Bush, regulating audit and accounting firms. The second is the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision in the NOvA case, which enables national and state bars to prohibit the formation of multi-disciplinary partnerships by their members.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2002

More about this publication?
  • Legal Ethics is an international and interdisciplinary journal devoted to the field of legal ethics.
    The journal provides an intellectual meeting ground for academic lawyers, practitioners and policy-makers to debate developments shaping the ethics of law and its practice at the micro and macro levels.
    Its focus is broad enough to encompass empirical research on the ethics and conduct of the legal professions and judiciary, studies of legal ethics education and moral development, ethics development in contemporary professional practice, the ethical responsibilities of law schools, professional bodies and government, and jurisprudential or wider philosophical reflections on law as an ethical system and on the moral obligations of individual lawyers.

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