In the booming legal services market of the late 1990s, the major accounting firms attempted to exploit the natural overlap between "accounting," "tax," and "legal" services to build "legal services" networks that would compete with international law firms. Few lawyers openly objected to these multidisciplinary arrangements (MDPs) on the ground that they were a threat to law firms' profits. Instead, the preferred ground for attack was the assumption that there was "no demand for MDPs", and particularly the assumption that multidisciplinary arrangements between lawyers and accountants were a threat to the core values of the legal profession. The passage of the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 in the United States favored these assumptions to prevail globally - or so it seemed. In 2015, more than a decade after the legal businesses of the Big Four - PwC, Deloitte, EY, and KPMG - were proclaimed dead by most pundits, their increasingly integrated and expansive legal networks are major players in the global legal services market. Nevertheless, to paraphrase the Australian regulator Steve Marks, there are no reasons to believe that the legal ethics sky is falling. After succinctly describing the assumptions and regulatory reforms that lead to the crisis of the accountants' "multidisciplinary version" during the period 2002-2003, this paper provides empirical evidence on how the Big Four have characterized their role in the global legal services ecosystem, and reflects on what assumptions against MDPs have been broken as well as on how the legal profession has evolved with regard to these assumptions.

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Wilkins , David B.; Esteban Ferrer, Maria Jose

Is the legal ethics sky falling? The role of the Big Four in the global legal services ecosystem

In the booming legal services market of the late 1990s, the major accounting firms attempted to exploit the natural overlap between "accounting," "tax," and "legal" services to build "legal services" networks that would compete with international law firms. Few lawyers openly objected to these multidisciplinary arrangements (MDPs) on the ground that they were a threat to law firms' profits. Instead, the preferred ground for attack was the assumption that there was "no demand for MDPs", and particularly the assumption that multidisciplinary arrangements between lawyers and accountants were a threat to the core values of the legal profession. The passage of the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 in the United States favored these assumptions to prevail globally - or so it seemed. In 2015, more than a decade after the legal businesses of the Big Four - PwC, Deloitte, EY, and KPMG - were proclaimed dead by most pundits, their increasingly integrated and expansive legal networks are major players in the global legal services market. Nevertheless, to paraphrase the Australian regulator Steve Marks, there are no reasons to believe that the legal ethics sky is falling. After succinctly describing the assumptions and regulatory reforms that lead to the crisis of the accountants' "multidisciplinary version" during the period 2002-2003, this paper provides empirical evidence on how the Big Four have characterized their role in the global legal services ecosystem, and reflects on what assumptions against MDPs have been broken as well as on how the legal profession has evolved with regard to these assumptions.
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Is the legal ethics sky falling? The role of the Big Four in the global legal services ecosystem
Wilkins , David B.; Esteban Ferrer, Maria Jose
International Legal Ethics Conference VII (ILEC 2016)
School of Law. Fordham University
Nueva York (United States of America), 14/07/2016 - 16/07/2016

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