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UK lawyers and firms should resist the lure of outside investment

By Robert C. Weber, SVP of legal & regulatory affairs and general counsel, IBM 

21 February 2012

Many are heralding the creation of alternative business structures (ABSs) as a watershed moment in the evolution of UK legal practice that will be good for consumers and the law. I am not convinced.

As an American attorney with over 35 years of experience in the international legal market as both a legal advocate and client, I have watched the debate over whether to allow outside investment in law firms with keen interest. Indeed, lawyers in the US are presently in the midst of the same debate. As on so many legal issues, the American bar naturally looks to the UK and our shared legal culture. And, on the issue of allowing non-lawyers to invest and participate in law firms, the UK has been well ahead of the US.

I believe the development of ABSs marks a dangerous shift in...

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