Multi-Disciplinary Partnerships (MDP’s) Update

I’ve always thought that law firms missed out on a major opportunity to take advantage of Multi-Disciplinary Partnerships (MDP’s) over the years. The current economy, the recent changes in British Columbia’s MDP guidelines and the coming UK regulation changes re: Alternative Business Structures (ABS’s) may be a great opportunity to get the ball rolling again.

In the 1990’s, the MDP discussion was very hot as law firms reacted to the possibility that accounting firms might steal their legal business as they developed global MDP consulting firms. In some cases, this led to law firms expanding into national and international legal firms to prepare for battle with the accountants. The opportunity was there for law firms to capitalize on global MDP consulting business as well. Alas, Enron came along and the accounting firms sold off their consulting subsidiaries due to conflicts with their audit client base. Law firms then quickly forgot about the MDP issue and went back to focusing on their core legal business.

However, it’s now possible for law firms in most countries to build their own MDP’s to gain market share from global consulting firms and accounting firms. The British Columbia and  UK regulation changes simply highlight this potential even more. The downturn in the economy provides a perfect opportunity for law firms to gain market share in previously unexplored markets and gain from the potential synergies of combining legal practice with other professional disciplines.

Will law firms be proactive and take advantage of the huge opportunity they have available to them now? Let’s hope so.

Leadership Skills Needed

If I had to pick one key skill which can have the most impact on the profitability of law firms, it would be Leadership. I distinguish leadership from management in that leadership involves inspiring and motivating others to do what’s best for the firm, while management focuses on execution and efficiency. Lawyers often confuse the two functions, and focus on counting pencils and cutting staff instead of leading others and dealing with key issues holding back the firm.

There are many good books and materials on the subject of leadership, so firms should start by building a leadership library now. Hold inhouse leadership seminars for all partners and associates and provide one-on-one leadership training for those in leadership positions. This is just a start, as much more can be done here.