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Editor’s Note:The American Bar Association’s policy-making House of Delegates on July 11, passed a resolution that would continue the ban on accounting firms and other non-lawyers owning law firms. The American Bar Association’s commission on multidisciplinary practice in June 1999 recommended that state bar authorities remove barriers to lawyers sharing profits with other professions. The ABA has since watered down its proposals, saying that lawyers should retain “control and authority” in such a partnership. In any case, the debate rages on, but MDPs are likely to come sooner or later. Not that the Big Five feel the need to wait around. In August 1999 KPMG International formed an alliance with San Francisco’s Morrison & Foerster, and Ernst & Young last November financed its own Washington, D.C., firm, McKee Nelson, Ernst & Young, with former partners from Atlanta’s King & Spalding. The biggest of the bunch, PricewaterhouseCoopers, is considering its response. Chris Arnheim of PwC’s Landwell law firm says that one option would be for PricewaterhouseCoopers to form referral associations with firms in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago by the end of the year. He says these links would allow Landwell to provide legal services in the key U.S. markets within state bar rules. And that would be a formidable entrant. PricewaterhouseCoopers has revenue of more than $17 billion. Last year it stated its intention to become a top-five global law firm by 2004. The accountants have also been busy in the U.K. Ernst & Young and KPMG have each launched associated U.K. legal arms in the past 14 months. In January, Arthur Andersen hired ex-Clifford Chance managing partner Tony Williams to head its global legal practice. In April, KPMG’s firm, KLegal, recruited Nick Holt, former managing partner of Weil, Gotshal & Manges’s London office, as its U.K. managing partner along with a string of solid partner hires. The Law Society — which represents and regulates solicitors in England and Wales — will debate new measures later this year to allow the sharing of profits between lawyers and other professions.

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