Multidisciplinary professional services networks

Multidisciplinary professional services networks are organizations formed by law, accounting and other professional services firms to offer clients new multidisciplinary approaches solving increasingly complex issues. They are a type of professional services network which operates to provide services to their members. They operate in the same way as accounting firm networks and associations and law firm networks. They do not practice a profession such as law or accounting but provide services to members so they can serve clients needs.Aim is to provide members involved in doing business internationally with access to experienced, tried and tested, reliable, and responsive professional advisers who know their local jurisdiction intimately as well as the intricacies of cross border business.

There are 10 multidisciplinary networks. The largest are: Alliott Group, MSI Global Alliance,[1] Morison International,[2] Geneva Group,[3] International Practice Group,[4] WSG - World Services Group and Russell Bedford International.[5] These networks have more than 100 member firms in as many as 90 countries in hundreds of offices. The members employ thousands of professionals.

Table of multidiciplinary networks from websites.


Multidisciplinary networks are not new but found in a number of professions. They became important during the end of the 1990s when the accounting firms began to expand to the legal profession. The history is well documented.[6]

The American Bar Association Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice refers to five multidisciplinary models.[7] They are the cooperative, command and control, ancillary practice, network and multidisciplinary partnership models.

Big Six accounting firms – multidisciplinary practices

The multidisciplinary issues first arose in the 1940s but was dealt with by the American Bar Association prohibiting lawyers working for accounting firms to represent clients before the IRS.[8] The foundation of multidisciplinary practice began when the Big 4 accounting firms reached their natural growth limits. Accounting, auditing and tax services could generate only a finite amount of revenue for the Big 6. The Big 4’s concept was simple: use the extensive list of clients to market non-traditional accounting services such as legal, recruitment, risk management, technology consulting, etc. The objective was to bring these non-traditional services “in-house” using the time-tested network model.

Having reached their natural limit on growth the Big 4 branched out to become multidisciplinary in legal, technology, and employment services. Since the essential infrastructure was in place, it was thought to be relatively simple to incorporate other services into the existing network. The expansion could easily be financed using revenue from the traditional services. As a network, it was natural to create independent entities in these other professions which themselves could be part of the network. The method and structures varied from firm to firm but the fundamental premise was the sharing of revenue between lawyers and accountants.

The accounting firms were initially very successful in creating these alternative businesses. Soon a number of Big 6 firms had multi-billion dollar technology consulting businesses. Other services were more difficult to bring in-house. Some, like legal services, demanded a different approach because of ethical considerations. The key factor among such different approaches is an internal control system within a firm.

Reaction of the legal profession

The initial to expand to legal services focus was on the United States which represented the largest potential market for these services. In Europe and South America the bar rules were not as developed as in the United States, and therefore did not restrict the sharing of revenues. The basis for this expansion was the law firm network that established under the umbrella of the Big Six.[9] The issues were sharing profits with accountants and other professionals and the possible conflicts of interest.

When the Big 6 began its expansion to the legal profession, it was met with fierce opposition from law firms and bar associations.[10] Lawyers saw that the accounting profession would subsume the legal profession with its vast resources.[11] Commissions, panels and committees were established by legal and accounting firms to argue their positions. The American Bar Association established committees and taskforces to address the issue, but the problem spread outside of the United States, first to Europe but then to other countries where lawyers were not protected from this new foreign competition.[12] Government agencies were enlisted. For more than five (5) years the debate escalated.

This movement ended abruptly with the fall of Arthur Andersen as a result of its association with Enron. Sarbanes Oxley followed, which effectively ended this trend of multisdisciplinary networks established by the Big 5.

Enron and Sarbanes–Oxley

There was, however, a fatal flaw in the multidisciplinary network concepts of the Big 6. The raison d’etre of the Big 6 was to audit public companies. Each service which is provided to an audited client contained an inherent conflict of interest. This conflict was illustrated by the perfect storm created by Enron. The additional services that Arthur Anderson was offering created a conflict in their role as the auditor. Multidisciplinary networks by the accounting firms were DOA. The final nail in the coffin was Sarbanes Oxley which meant that the accounting firms had to divest their consulting practices.[13]

Multidisciplinary networks today

The multidisciplinary network model was not dead but transformed to account for the issues. If the member firms were themselves independent, there was no prohibition on having a multidisciplinary network. This was recognized by the ABA.[14]

Today there are at least eleven networks. The largest are in the legal and accounting professions. A few of the legal and accounting networks include investment banking. The primary networks are focused on tax, employment, intellectual property, insurance and immigration.

See also


  1. ^ "MSI". Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  2. ^ "Morison KSi - Morison International and KS International have merged to form Morison KSi". Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  3. ^ "Home". 3 December 2015. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  4. ^ "404". Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  5. ^ "Russell Bedford global accounting network - CPA firm association - Audit - Tax - Consulting". Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  6. ^ Mijares, A H, The SEC’s ban on Legal serves by Audit firms: Amendments to Rule 2.01 of Regulations S-X under the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934. 36 U.S. F. L. Rev 209–236 (2001).
  7. ^ American Bar Association Commission on Multidisciplinary Practices, Final Report, Appendix C, Reporter’s notes, July 2000
  8. ^ ABA Information Op. 269 (1944)
  9. ^ These networks had names like the E&Y Legal Network, Andersen Legal Network and Landwell. Only Landwell remains with 6 member firms. Countries in the Landwell network
  10. ^ Jacobs, “Accounting Firms Covert Forbidden Fruit: Piece of the U.S. Legal Market, Wall Street Journal,” p.B1 (May 31, 2000), Poe, “Multidisciplinary Practice,” Defense Counsel J. 245 (Apr. 2000), Cannon, “The Big Six Moves In” 50 Int’l Fin. L. Rev. 49 (October 1997), “Andersen’s Giant Step Towards World Law” Australian Fin. Rev. 33 (Jan. 1998), Rubenstein, (Accounting Firm Legal Practices Expand Rapidly. How the Big Six Firms Are Practicing Law in Europe: Europe First and then the World?” Corp. Legal Times 1 (Nov 1997).
  11. ^ In 2011, the UK House of Lords completed an inquiry into the financial crisis, and called for an Office of Fair Trading investigation into the dominance of the Big Four. Adam Jones, Auditors criticized for role in financial crisis, Financial Times, 30 March 2011
  12. ^ McGarry, S. Multidisciplinary Practices and Partnerships, American Lawyer Media Publishing, 2002
  13. ^ Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act of 2002, Pub. L. No. 107-204, 116 Stat. 745 (2002).
  14. ^ "Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice - The Center for Professional Responsibility". Retrieved 16 April 2017.
ALFA International

ALFA International The Global Legal Network Inc., commonly known as ALFA International, is a global legal network consisting of 150 independent law firms, including 80 U.S. law firms and 70 member firms in other countries.

As with other types of professional services networks, the organization serves as a business referral and resource pooling network between member law firms.

Accounting networks and associations

Accounting networks and associations are professional services networks whose principal purpose is to provide members resources to assist the clients around the world and hence reduce the uncertainty by bringing together a greater number of resources to work on a problem. The networks and associations operate independently of the independent members. The largest accounting networks are known as the Big Four.

Alliott Group

Alliott Group is an international association of accounting firms and law firms that provide audit, accountancy, tax, real estate, M&A, global mobility, commercial law and private wealth services. It ranks as one of more than 200 professional services networks worldwide. The association was established in 1979 and comprises 150 member firms in some 160 cities across 64 countries. The alliance aims to be a Top 10 ranked alliance by the end of 2021 and to achieve this by appointing an accounting and law firm member (dual coverage) in the majority of the world's commercial hubs.

Member firms are independent, mid-market professional practices. At the end of 2018, Alliott Group was ranked by Accountancy Age as the 13th largest international association of accounting firms with aggregated revenues of approximately USD628 million.In October 2016, at the International Accounting Bulletin (IAB) Awards, Alliott Group was presented with the "2016 Rising Star International Association of Accounting Firms of the Year" award.Through its member firms, the association offers services to Small and medium-sized enterprises across a number of sectors and has services groups focused on international tax, VAT/indirect tax, transfer pricing, private wealth, global mobility, commercial law, real estate and M&A.

Law firm

A law firm is a business entity formed by one or more lawyers to engage in the practice of law. The primary service rendered by a law firm is to advise clients (individuals or corporations) about their legal rights and responsibilities, and to represent clients in civil or criminal cases, business transactions, and other matters in which legal advice and other assistance are sought.

Law firm network

A law firm network (law firm association or legal network) is a membership organisation consisting of independent law firms. These networks are one type of professional services networks similar to networks found in the accounting profession. The common purpose is to expand the resources available to each member for providing services to their clients. Prominent primarily law firm networks include Alliott Group, Lex Mundi, WSG - World Services Group (multidisciplinary), TerraLex, Meritas (law), Multilaw , The Network of Trial Law Firms, Inc., the State Capital Group, and Pacific Rim Advisory Council. The largest networks have more than 10,000 attorneys located in hundreds of offices worldwide.

The firms who are part of the networks may be formally or informally linked to one another depending upon the purpose of the network.

PLMJ Law Firm

PLMJ is a Portuguese law firm with its headquarters in Lisbon.

PLMJ is a full-service, multidisciplinary firm advising Portuguese and multinational businesses, and financial and state institutions on a range of domestic and international transactions. More than 290 lawyers including 58 partners and around 100 support staff work in PLMJ’s nine offices spread across seven countries in Europe, Africa and Asia.PLMJ is a member of World Services Group and World Law Group, two international multidisciplinary professional services networks of independent accounting and law firms.

Professional services networks

Professional services networks are networks of independent firms who come together to cost-effectively provide professional services to clients through an organized framework. They are principally found in law and accounting. They may also be found in investment banking, insurance, real estate and architectural services. Any profession that operates locally, but has clients in multiple locations, are potential members of a network. This entry focuses on accounting, legal, multidisciplinary and specialty practice networks. Today members of these networks employ more than one million professionals and staff and have cumulative annual revenues that exceed $200 billion.The accounting networks and associations developed first to meet the requirement of the SEC of public company audits. They include the well-known accounting networks like PwC, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG (also known as the Big 4 Audit Firms) as well as more than 30 other accounting networks and associations. They are highly structured entities.

The law firm network developed in the late 1980s. They include legal and law firm based multidisciplinary networks like Lex Mundi, World Services Group, TerraLex, Meritas, and the State Capital Group.

There are more than 175 known networks in law, 40 in accounting, and 20 specialty networks. Individual networks have revenues exceeding $20 billion.

World Services Group

WSG, also branded as World Services Group, is a multidisciplinary professional services network of independent law, accounting and investment banking firms. It ranks as one of the largest among the more than 200 professional services networks in the world. WSG members are independent law, accounting and investment banking firms. According to the organization's website as of 2016, WSG was formed in 2002 as a multidisciplinary network with the objective of bringing together professionals in a professional services network that creates business opportunities and relationships to better service their clients globally. Its members have more than 19,000 professionals in more than 115 countries in almost 400 offices. Its global headquarters are located in the Houston, Texas,

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