We'll see more multidisciplinary partnerships in the future - Rob Aberdein

An industry colleague asked me recently whether multidisciplinary partnerships (MDPs) are the future. It’s a good question, to which there are two answers.

The first is that, yes, MDPs are enjoying growing popularity and momentum is now gathering behind them, so they will play a significant part in the future of the legal profession. But they are also part of the past and the present.

The second answer is to add that while they certainly have a healthy future, they are not the only forward path for the industry.

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MDPs have actually been around in some form or another for some time in the UK. Evidence of this can be seen in their variety, as there are a number of different types.

Rob Aberdein is Chief Commercial Officer at ProgenyRob Aberdein is Chief Commercial Officer at Progeny
Rob Aberdein is Chief Commercial Officer at Progeny

The most prolific are the legal-centric MDPs, like listed UK firm Gateleys, international firm CMS or Thorntons, here in Scotland. These firms all tackle things with legal as the lead service and work with both private and corporate clients.

There is the wealth-centred MDP, exemplified by our model at Progeny, which has financial planning and investment management at its heart. This can be surrounded by a range of satellite services in tax advice, private and corporate law and corporate services. In general, this serves those with complex advisory needs, typically high-net-worth clients, who need support in their business and personal interests, across the generations of their family and potentially in multiple locations around the globe.

The accountants are also playing in this space with both PWC and KPMG offering legal services, alongside their core accountancy, tax and consulting offerings to corporates. I also recently came across Leonard Curtis Business Solutions Group, which offers a variety of legal services under their ABS that complement their core business rescue and restructuring service.

To come back to the second answer to my colleague’s question, while we will see an increase in MDPs in future, they will not be the only model out there.

They will take their place in an array of what we’ll call the new breed of law firms emerging: the super firms; the multi-disciplinaries; the platforms; and the specialists.

They all share a certain set of characteristics that reflect the changing demands of the marketplace as well as the workforce. They’re well capitalised, with a close focus on using data and technology to optimise opportunities and innovate client service. They operate at scale, often made up of more complex corporate structures and are highly acquisitive.

There are a number of factors behind the emergence of these new breeds. In a climate of an increased need for investment in the legal sector, these models improve the chance of raising and generating capital. The industry is becoming more competitive with increased regulation, which larger, more diversified firms are better placed to manage. Technology is playing an increasingly significant role.

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There are also shifts in mindset at practitioner level that are having significant impacts on the profile of the profession. The partnership model is becoming steadily less attractive to Generation X, Millennials, Gen Z, who don’t want to take out huge professional practice loans or be saddled with debt from early in their careers. A better work-life balance is now more of a priority.

Most importantly, MDPs are an attractive option to clients too. Their simplicity sells itself and the structure makes it easier for us to do business with them. They can access law, accounting, tax, wealth, property and finance in one place, with technology driving everything.

If used correctly and intelligently, data can let MDP firms know what a client might need before they know themselves. Anticipating their requirements in this way can deliver better customer journeys, experiences and outcomes and take our customer service provision to an entirely new plane.

In exchange for consolidating their sources of advice, clients have less admin, less hassle, less bureaucracy, more time back. They benefit from joined-up advice and better value, from a brand that means more than a cooperative of people, created with the quality of their experience front and centre.

So, to revisit my colleague’s query again: are MDPs the future? Yes, no question.

Rob Aberdein is Chief Commercial Officer at Progeny



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