George Bull, Baker Tilly executive partner of the professional practices group, described law firms that he has dealt with as 'professionally outraged that they might have to open their doors to the great unwashed'.
This attitude will be met with disappointment by the Big Five most of which have already invested large amounts of money in building up legal practices in the view that clients want a 'one-stop shop'.
Bull said this attitude arose from both territorial tensions as well as envy of the legislation governing the structure of accountancy firms which allows non-accountants, with certain exceptions, to take up partnerships.Under Law Society regulations, members are unable to offer partnerships to anyone who is not a lawyer.
Denton Hall partner Howard Morris, said that although his firm had considered a merger with an accountancy firm before linking up with Wilde Sapte, he agreed that the law profession was widely fearful of change.'There is a lot of truth that across the profession there is a perception that lawyers have lost the position of being business advisors. Lawyers have missed the boat and they do not show much enthusiasm aboutgetting it back,' he said.
PricewaterhouseCoopers is currently locked in a legal battle with the Dutch Bar Association in an attempt to overrule its hardline stance to MDPs and the landmark case, which will have serious repercussions for the UK, has been referred to the European Court of Justice.
But in advance of the ruling, lawyers may be forced to accept the development of mixed practices as the Law Society's members voted overwhelmingly to support the lifting of the ban on MDPs over the summer.Two-thirds of the 272 responses urged the society to relax its rules and a working party has been set up to produce a blueprint of how the new structure could be regulated.
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