Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2002


Multi-disciplinary practice, MDP


Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility | Legal Profession


It is always an interesting journey to return to one's roots, and many of the most important of my personal and professional roots are here in Cleveland, including my birth and the first twenty years of life. Subsequent wanderings have taken me far from here, but always to return. We consider here another set of journeys and pathways that are institutional, not personal. The paths traversed are both national and international, and they will take us on journeys that are far from completed. They concern the ways in which various contemporary legal cultures have so far approached the subject of this conference—multi-disciplinary practice ("MDP").

My examples include the well-known efforts to date of the American Bar Association ("ABA") in its fervent and flawed, but perhaps temporary, rejection of the MDP concept almost entirely. I will contrast that with the much less well-known example of the route mapped out by the Canadian Bar Association ("CBA"), which one only rarely hears mentioned in domestic discussions, and which has taken a much more welcoming approach to the MDP concept. I then will briefly examine work underway in New York and California. Both states have also recently taken steps along very different paths with respect to MDP practice—quite restrictively in the case of New York and in a much more welcoming way thus far in the case of California.

Although I do not elaborate upon it here at any length, I think it would be well at the outset to identify my own "lean" on the MDP issue. Those who have attended similar conferences on MDPs in recent years have been struck, as have I, at the great divide between academic—almost all of whom are more or less in favor of more or less significant expansion of opportunities for MDP practice—and some (but hardly all) practitioners, whose manifested reactions range from wariness to vehement opposition. I, another academic, stand with those who are largely unimpressed with the concerns and criticisms of those opposed to the MDP in any but its most timid forms and who, as with the majority of the ABA House of Delegates, would confine them, if permitted at all, to only joint marketing efforts, thus effectively banning them almost entirely. To the contrary, I think that, accompanied by appropriate regulatory arrangements, MDP practice could and should be permitted in the United States without significant risk of harm to either consumers or lawyers. Further, MDP should be permitted because it holds the promise of greatly improved delivery of legal services.

Publication Citation

Published in: Case Western Reserve Law Review, vol. 52, no. 4 (Summer 2002).