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    Ethics: Defining MDP and MJP

    As the future of the practice of law unfolds, the State Bar considers the issues surrounding multidisciplinary and multijurisdictional practice.

    Dean Dietrich

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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 77, No. 5, May 2004

    Defining MDP and MJP

    As the future of the practice of law unfolds, the State Bar considers the issues surrounding multidisciplinary and multijurisdictional practice.

    by Dean R. Dietrich

    Dean DietrichDean R. Dietrich, Marquette 1977, of Ruder, Ware & Michler L.L.S.C., Wausau, is chair of the State Bar Professional Ethics Committee.

    Question

    I have heard a lot about MDP over the past several years and now I am hearing about MJP. What is the difference?

    Answer

    MDP stands for multidisciplinary practices while MJP stands for multijurisdictional practices. People sometimes confuse these acronyms, but the acronyms have very different meanings and importance to the practice of law.

    Multidisciplinary Practice. MDP refers to the establishment of a business relationship in which lawyers work in conjunction with other professionals (such as accountants, financial planners, engineers) to provide multiple professional services in one company or business to clients in need of those services. The concept of multi-disciplinary practice grew out of the effort by other professions to join with the legal profession to provide "one-stop shopping" for clients. Because lawyers are not allowed to share fees with other professionals, this type of business relationship would require an amendment to the rules of professional conduct governing lawyers.

    The Professional Ethics Committee opinions are available in Wisconsin Ethics Opinions, published by State Bar of Wisconsin CLE Books, which includes the complete text of all formal, informal, and memorandum opinions issued by the Professional Ethics Committee since 1954, including opinions that have been withdrawn; and the full text of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys (SCR 20). To order Wisconsin Ethics Opinions, call (800) 728-7788 or visit Marketplace online.

    The ability to establish this type of business relationship among professionals was debated at length for several years both at the national and state levels. In the end, there was very little movement to allow lawyers to participate in multidisciplinary practices with other professionals and very few states have allowed this to occur. The debate over MDPs has quieted significantly with the accounting scandals of the past few years, although it is likely that this topic will arise again in the future as all types of professionals look to become more creative in providing services to their clients.

    Multijurisdictional Practice. MJP is the common occurrence of lawyers providing legal services to clients located outside the state where the lawyer is licensed to practice law or rendering legal services, on behalf of a client, in a state in which the lawyer is not licensed to practice. Each of these scenarios has become common as the practice of law has transcended state boundaries, especially via the Internet. The American Bar Association and state bar associations have been studying MJP for the past two years to try to address the reality of the law practice while at the same time ensuring protection for clients when lawyers provide legal services in jurisdictions in which the lawyers lack familiarity with the laws and procedures of that jurisdiction. Concerns about MJP raise both protectionist theories and the recognition that clients should have the right to select the lawyer of their own choosing even if that lawyer is not licensed to practice law in a particular state.

    The debate surrounding MJP focuses on Rule 5.5, which prohibits a lawyer from participating in the unauthorized practice of law in a jurisdiction. A lawyer providing legal services in a state in which the lawyer is not licensed is, in effect, participating in the unauthorized practice of law unless the lawyer has been granted permission to appear in a court proceeding pro hac vice under the regulatory rules of that state. The American Bar Association has proposed amendments to Model Rule 5.5 that would allow the temporary practice by a lawyer in a state in which the lawyer is not licensed under several exceptions. These exceptions include instances when a lawyer is admitted pro hac vice in a particular proceeding and is working with a lawyer licensed in that state in the litigation or the lawyer is participating on a temporary basis in an alternative dispute resolution proceeding in the state. Other exceptions include instances when the lawyer is providing services on behalf of a client in his or her state of licensure and the legal services arise directly from providing representation to that client, or the attorney is doing preliminary work in anticipation of being admitted pro hac vice in a proceeding. Special exceptions also are being considered for in-house counsel providing services to their own employers.

    While it appears that the issue of multijurisdictional practices is being considered throughout the country, questions remain whether any amendments to allow the multijurisdictional practice of law will create instances that result in the multidisciplinary practice of law. At this time, the two concepts are not linked together and there is little action being taken to pursue the right of lawyers to participate in the practice of law in a multidisciplinary setting. In all of the considerations regarding the multijurisdictional practice of law, it is clear that the lawyer participating in the temporary practice in another state would be subject to the regulatory jurisdiction of that state.

    Certainly the future of law practice will have many twists and turns, but at this juncture any discussion about allowing lawyers to participate in the temporary practice of law in a jurisdiction in which they are not licensed does not appear to open the door to lawyers participating in multidisciplinary practices with nonlawyers and the sharing of fees with nonlawyers. The State Bar of Wisconsin is considering several recommendations regarding the multijurisdictional practice of law for both lawyers temporarily practicing in Wisconsin and Wisconsin lawyers temporarily practicing in other states.

    For an overview on the State Bar's debate of MDP and MJP, please see the President's Message, "Debating MJP Proposal," in the February 2004 Wisconsin Lawyer.

    Professional Ethics Committee opinions may be found online at www.wisbar.org/ethop. In addition, Professional Ethics Committee opinions are available in Wisconsin Ethics Opinions, published by State Bar of Wisconsin CLE Books. Wisconsin Ethics Opinions includes the complete text of all formal, informal, and memorandum opinions issued by the Professional Ethics Committee since 1954, including opinions that have been withdrawn.

    The book also includes the full text of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys (SCR 20). For more information, or to order Wisconsin Ethics Opinions, call (800) 728-7788.

    Opinions and advice of the Professional Ethics Committee, its members, and assistants are issued pursuant to State Bar Bylaws, Article IV, Section 5. Opinions and advice are limited to the facts presented, are advisory only, and are not binding on any court, the Office of Lawyer Regulation, or State Bar members. Attorneys with questions on professional ethics issues may contact the Ethics Hotline at (800) 444-9404, ext. 6168; or (608) 250-6168 (all day Wednesday); and (608) 629-5721 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings. Send written requests for Professional Ethics Committee opinions to the Professional Ethics Committee, c/o org kkaap wisbar Keith Kaap, State Bar of Wisconsin, P.O. Box 7158, Madison, WI 53707-7158.




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