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Each July we celebrate that day when a group composed largely of attorneys met in Philadelphia to “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” Many of them did lose their lives, their homes, their business and their children before the war was over. But they also achieved the freedoms we have enjoyed ever since.
While certainly less dramatic than the declaration made by their colleagues in 1776, this July attorneys made an assertion for the continued independence of their profession. On July 11, the ABA voted to reject the proposals made by the Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice. Rather, they have reaffirmed Professional Conduct Rule 5.4 which prohibits the sharing of fees with non-lawyers and prohibits non-lawyers from owning or controlling law firms.
Multidisciplinary practices may have worked in Europe or Asia, but not all countries have the deeply ingrained expectation of an independent judicial system that we have. In other countries, for example, the judge also acts as the prosecutor or works closely with the prosecutor on the development of the case, something that would be intolerable in this country.
Although an attorney has a duty to do what is best for the client, there is also the role of being an officer of the court and maintaining the integrity of the justice system for the benefit of all. Other professions have their own viewpoints, duties, codes and mores. By working in a firm strictly devoted to the practice of the law, the attorneys can stay focused on their own field of expertise and do the best job for their clients.
At Atkinson-Baker Court Reporters, we also cherish our independence. While there are plenty of opportunities for us to make money by getting into other areas such as legal staffing, medical transcription, expert witness databases or trial preparation, we consider our role as an officer of the court to be paramount.
What we do is provide all parties in a case an accurate and thoroughly impartial record of exactly what occurred. Perhaps it is a narrow specialty and not the most lucrative option, but by focusing strictly on that and doing it extremely well we can maintain our integrity, our independence and offer our clients the best service possible.