Statement of Defense Research Institute

By Kouris, John R. | Defense Counsel Journal, October 1999 | Go to article overview

Statement of Defense Research Institute


Kouris, John R., Defense Counsel Journal


(Following are excerpts from the statement of position of the Defense Research Institute presented by Executive Director John R. Kouris to the ABA Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice in August 1999.)

The Defense Research Institute is a 22,000-member association of lawyers primarily representing defendants in civil litigation.... During the recent past, no issue has consumed more of DRI's attention than the threat to the independence of the defense lawyer. Such things as onerous and detailed billing and handling guidelines, as well as "auditing" of attorney bills by third parties, are impacting on the professionalism of defense attorneys and impeding the ability to exercise independent professional judgement.

It is in this atmosphere that DRI received and reviewed the report of the Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice. It is our view that the MDP model is another step down the road toward a corporate model of law practice in which the sanctity of the attorney-client relationship is subsumed to modem marketing methods. We are concerned that amending the Model Rules of Professional Conduct in the manner recommended by the commission would have a major, negative impact on the independence of the practicing lawyer and the nature of law practice.

Commission doesn't understand

One remark in the commission's report demonstrates a lack of understanding of the current climate in the civil justice system. The report states, "[fln today's world, many lawyers routinely work a practice settings in which they are subject to management oversight by non-lawyers. . . . Independence has been maintained in those settings." To the contrary, professional independence of judgment has in fact been severely impacted in some of those settings. Defense lawyers have experienced numerous instances of non-lawyers hindering their representation of clients. We can imagine a serious exacerbation of an already unsatisfactory situation when accountants, financial services organizations and the like are in a position to direct how defense lawyers defend their clients.

Ostensibly, the MDP proposal has been fathered by an "expression" of consumers of legal services that they would enjoy the convenience of one-stop shopping for professional services-an "expression" which the commission admits is not supported by any empirical data. A lawyer is not the same as a jewelry department at Wal-Mart. This is especially true in the United States. A lawyer in this country plays a much different role from the role played elsewhere. In the United Kingdom the profession is divided between barristers and solicitors. In continental Europe, the legal system and its goals are much different from that intended by the Founders.

Europe and U.S. don't mix

DRI sees little relevance between the European experience with a multidisciplinary practice and the delivery of legal services in the United States. …

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