I have been reworking some of my material on corporatisation in professional services for a conference paper I am delivering later this month.
One of the concerns associated with corporatisation is the risk that it might create new ethical conflicts. I dealt with this one briefly in a post in May 2007, Corporatisation and Professional Ethics.
One difficulty faced by those who would oppose new corporate forms on ethics grounds is the reality that ethical conflicts can already arise in a billable hours environment. In this context, the troubles that have beset the Australian compensation law firm Keddies Lawyers are instructive.
Those who are interested can find some coverage of the Keddies' issue here:
- 13 June 2008, 2UE: Keddies case - how it started
- 13 June 2008, Brisbane Times: Top law firm under fire in compo dispute
- 14 June 2008, The Land: Angry clients accuse barristers over fees
- 16 June 2008, Sydney Morning Herald: Blank spaces left in legal papers, says Keddies client
- 19 June 2008, Sydney Morning Herald: Keddies ordered to repay $85,000
- 25 June 2008, Business Spectator: Keddies boss fined for misconduct
- 1 July 2008, Brisbane Times: Keddies client charged for saying thanks
- 1 July 2008, Rab Experience, The Keddies Bill
I am not in a position to comment on the detail of the Keddies case. However, if you stand back from the detail, you can see how existing billing practices can create ethical problems independent of the nature of firm structures.