Ancillary business study continues

first_img December 1, 2002 Regular News Ancillary business study continues Ancillary business study continuescenter_img Multidisciplinary practices may be a thing of the past in the wake of corporate scandals, but there’s still plenty to occupy the Bar’s Ancillary Business Committee.Chair Russ Devine reported to the Bar Board of Governors in October that the committee is studying the best methods for lawyers who want to offer ancillary, nonlegal services to clients. The panel is also reviewing the latest ABA recommendations on strategic alliances, which are agreements between lawyers and other professions, not in formal professional associations, to refer clients back and forth.On ancillary businesses, “our committee is particularly mindful of two overriding things,” Devine said. “One is to protect the public interest and the other is to attempt to promote enforcement of our rules, so we don’t have lawyers who are violating our rules go unpunished.”The Bar’s new rule on ancillary businesses allows lawyers to offer those services, but says they are bound by all of their ethical duties as lawyers unless clients are informed, preferably in writing, that the ancillary services are not legal services and are not covered under the attorney-client relationship.He said the ABA has promulgated new proposed rules on strategic alliances, and the committee is giving those careful consideration.The ABA’s initial rules considered a situation where “there is a formal agreement between a lawyer and nonlawyer to refer business back and forth and pay a referral fee when business is referred,” Devine said. The ABA original rules would allow that arrangement, unless the lawyer’s professional judgment was affected, and the client would not have to be informed of the relationship.A previous Florida Bar committee, as well as other groups, made strong comments about that, and the ABA has retooled its proposal.“The new rule allows strategic alliances, and they cannot be exclusive, and the client has to be informed on the nature of the relationship,” Devine said. “We’re going to be looking at the rule and whether we should take any action there.”The proposals raise several tricky questions, he said. For example, if a CPA sends a lawyer a lot of business, and the lawyer reciprocates with a Christmas present or a fishing trip, is that different from a referral fee?Besides the ABA rule, the committee is also studying the recently passed Sarbanes bill, which seeks to reform corporate accounting and accountability. Part of that bill could involve the federal government in the regulation of the legal profession, which has traditionally been left to the states.last_img