decries trend toward multidisciplinary law practices
practice of law is in danger of becoming more of a business than
a profession, former U.Va.
law professor Mortimer Caplin warned a capacity crowd in the Law
Schools Caplin Pavilion April 12. Caplin was at U.Va.
to receive this years Thomas Jefferson Medal in Law.
a widening gap between whats taught in law schools and how
law is actually practiced, said Caplin, who headed the IRS
under President Kennedy and was a founding partner in Caplin &
Drysdale, a prestigious tax law firm based in Washington, D.C.
lead a good professional life, lawyers need to wear two
hats: as lawyers advocating for clients and as responsible citizens
in a democratic society, said Caplin, who spoke in one of
several Law School facilities bearing his name. One of the Law
Schools most loyal supporters, he also has funded a professorship,
a public service scholarship, a public service award and a public
by contributing to public life can we reach Oliver Wendell Holmes
ideal to live greatly in the law.
decried a trend toward multidisciplinary practice, pointing to
a sustained campaign to allow lawyers and non-lawyers
to join in partnership; for instance, a lawyer and an accountant
might work together and share fees.
American Bar Association prohibits lawyers from sharing legal
fees with non-lawyers, and these prohibitions are thought to protect
the public and the profession, he said.
Calling these prohibitions overly protectionist, the countrys
five largest accounting firms have been making intense efforts
to get these rules changed.
very powerful, he said. They maintain that lawyers
arent practicing law; theyre consulting. Accounting
firms want to have dual practices offering
one stop shopping,
[selling] tax-shelter products.
ABA Ethics Commission voted three to one against allowing multidisciplinary
practices last year, but the issue is far from dead, Caplin said.
The ABA only makes recommendations to individual state bars,
which are now analyzing the issue.
up to the next generation of lawyers to decide. Theres a
lot of pressure to branch out, franchise, merge or affiliate.
The largest firm in the world has 3,000 lawyers, he said.
But as Londons Guardian put it, any intelligent fool
can make things bigger.
It takes a bit of genius to go
in the opposite direction.
large lobby of determined lawyers is arguing that the profession
is unique, that they dont want it watered down. Theyre
seeking to uphold the rule of law and provide services to the
community, to strengthen the judicial process and a spirit of
public service, he said.