Cornell International Law Journal


George C. Nnona


Multidisciplinary law firms, Legal ethics


Multidisciplinary practice (MDP) and the controversy surrounding it have ebbed in the wake of the Enron scandal and the subsequent enactment of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. However, legal professionals continue to debate the viability of MDP and rules that currently prohibit lawyer fee-sharing arrangements and partnerships with non-lawyers-some of the rules that aim to safeguard lawyer independence from external influences. This Article addresses one of the most common arguments supporting MDP, namely, that the pervasive propagation of MDP in Europe will inevitably exert an overwhelming influence and pressure to conform on regulators of the legal profession in the United States. The Article challenges this position by presenting a nuanced vista of the European Union's regulatory terrain- a terrain in which MDP, though accepted domestically in some European Union member states, is far from being a dominant or prevalent trend. This proposition is especially true at the EU's institutional level, where even pre-Enron developments evinced reticence towards MDP. Toward that end, the Article analyzes EU legislation and key decisions of the European Court of Justice in the legal services area, as well as selected decisions of member states' courts, indicating how those decisions reinforce the principle of lawyer independence that lies at the root of the United States' prohibition of MDP.

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