Here’s a story, Plan for Supermarket Legal Advice (BBC, 3/20/05) about a proposal that will shake up the legal profession in England and Wales by allowing commercial businesses to own and run law firms. The intent of the proposal, known as the Tesco law, is to make legal services “a better deal for consumers.” Under the plan, commercial interests like insurance companies or supermarkets can invest in, own and manage legal services. In addition, the new plan would allow lawyers to work in partnership with non-lawyers such as accountants or financial advisors. (incidentally, I have no idea where the ABA and the various state bars stand on multi-disciplinary practice. I took a look at the ABA Web Resources on Multi-Disciplinary Practice but it’s not clear whether much has happened beyond debate (as with the seemingly endless debates and commissioned studies over the billable hour)
I’m all for proposals that open up competition in the legal profession and reduce costs. But when I read about this idea, all I could think was Enron. And surprisingly, even though the Tesco multidisciplinary proposal is being debated overseas, I wasn’t the only one who thought of the Enron analogy either.