The face of Hong Kong's legal profession is poised for profound change, with Big Six accounting firm Arthur Andersen preparing to establish its own law firm in the territory. Industry sources said yesterday discussions had been held between Andersen - the world's largest accounting firm - and senior Law Society officials, with a view to the accountants establishing a separate legal entity in Hong Kong as soon as possible. The firm is looking to establish itself as a commercial law operator. The move follows the gazetting of legislation in June allowing solicitors the option to practice in multi-disciplinary partnerships. It is understood the new Hong Kong firm will be established as a key part of the growing Andersen legal umbrella. However, it appears the plans have not yet been formally put to senior officials at the Law Society. Patrick Moss, secretary-general of the society, said no formal proposal had, to his knowledge, been received. International partners of the Arthur Andersen organisation have admitted openly pursuing ambitions to become the world's largest legal operator. Andersen already has established a substantial legal presence in Europe and has been expanding rapidly in the Asia-Pacific. A Hong Kong firm would be crucial to Andersen's plans, where the multi-disciplinary firm is still a fledgling concept. The idea has taken off in Australia, where Andersen and fellow Big Six firm, KPMG Peat Marwick, both operate accounting and legal practices. But while expansion into the law is the stated objective, accountants have done so only in Thailand. Andersen sources recently said the firm was facing growing pressure from several of its multinational corporate clients to offer a one-stop-shop for international accounting and legal services. The organisation is now looking to group these legal operations under a global umbrella, possibly to be known as Andersen Legal. The legislation allowing the establishment of one-stop-shop professional partnerships has not yet been formally implemented. However, informed observers believe Andersen may not have to wait for the legislation to come into force before establishing a law firm, because of its unusual Swiss-based structure under which legal and accounting firms are already established. The firm already has used this feature to good effect in establishing legal practices even in areas where multi-disciplinary partnerships are not legally permitted. In general, the legal profession has not been overly welcoming of the multi-disciplinary partnership concept. 'Multi-disciplinary partnerships are . . . worth looking at, but in the absence of conclusive evidence elsewhere that they are of benefit, we view them with some caution,' Mr Moss said after the new legislation allowing one-stop-shop professional firms was first publicised.