State & National News

How the State of Florida handles outside attorney contracts

June 8, 2017

Florida 287.059 Private attorney services — governs how the state’s executive branch handles the use of outside attorneys. The system considerable controls in the hands of the Florida Attorney General and establishes policies and procedures for hiring outside firms. Many are very similar to what Councilwoman Sherri Myers has proposed.

F.S. 287.059 (3) An agency requesting approval for the use of private attorney services shall first offer to contract with the Department of Legal Affairs for such attorney services at a cost pursuant to mutual agreement. The Attorney General shall decide on a case-by-case basis to accept or decline to provide such attorney services as staffing, expertise, or other legal or economic considerations warrant.

If the Attorney General declines to provide the requested attorney services, the Attorney General’s written approval shall include a statement that the private attorney services requested cannot be provided by the office of the Attorney General or that such private attorney services are cost-effective in the opinion of the Attorney General…

The Attorney General may adopt, by rule, a form on which agencies requesting written approval for private attorney services shall provide information concerning:
(a) The nature of the attorney services to be provided and the issues involved.
(b) The need for use of private attorneys, rather than agency staff attorneys, utilizing the criteria provided in subsection (9).
(c) The criteria by which the agency selected the private attorney or law firm it proposes to employ, utilizing the criteria provided in subsection (10).
(d) Competitive fees for similar attorney services.
(e) The agency’s analysis estimating the number of hours for attorney services, the costs, the total contract amount, and, when appropriate, a risk or cost-benefit analysis.
(f) Which partners, associates, paralegals, research associates, or other personnel will be used, and how their time will be billed to the agency.
(g) Any other information which the Attorney General deems appropriate for the proper evaluation of the need for such private attorney services.

F.S. 287.059 (6) The Attorney General shall, by rule, adopt a standard fee schedule for private attorney services using hourly rates or an alternative billing methodology. The Attorney General shall take into consideration the following factors:
(a) Type of controversy involved and complexity of the legal services needed.
(b) Geographic area where the attorney services are to be provided.
(c) Novelty of the legal questions involved.
(d) Amount of experience desired for the particular kind of attorney services to be provided.
(e) Other factors deemed appropriate by the Attorney General.
(f) The most cost-effective or appropriate billing methodology.

F.S. 287.059 (8) All agencies, when contracting for private attorney services, must use the standard fee schedule for private attorney services as established pursuant to this section unless the head of the agency, or his or her designee, waives use of the schedule and sets forth the reasons for deviating from the schedule in writing to the Attorney General. Such waiver must demonstrate necessity based upon criteria for deviation from the schedule which the Attorney General shall establish by rule.

F.S. 287.059 (9) The Attorney General shall develop guidelines that may be used by agencies to determine when it is necessary and appropriate to seek private attorney services in lieu of staff attorney services.

F.S. 287.059 (10) Agencies are encouraged to use the following criteria when selecting outside firms for attorney services:
(a) The magnitude or complexity of the case.
(b) The firm’s ratings and certifications.
(c) The firm’s minority status.
(d) The firm’s physical proximity to the case and the agency.
(e) The firm’s prior experience with the agency.
(f) The firm’s prior experience with similar cases or issues.
(g) The firm’s billing methodology and proposed rate.
(h) The firm’s current or past adversarial position, or conflict of interest, with the agency.
(i) The firm’s willingness to use resources of the agency to minimize costs.

F.S. 287.059 (11) The Attorney General shall develop a standard addendum to every contract for attorney services that must be used by all agencies, unless waived by the Attorney General, describing in detail what is expected of both the contracted private attorney and the contracting agency. The addendum must address the internal system of governance if multiple law firms are parties to the contract and must, at a minimum, require that each firm identify one member who is authorized to legally bind the firm.

F.S. 287.059 (12) Contracts for attorney services shall be originally executed for 1 year only, except that multiyear contracts may be entered into provided they are subject to annual appropriations and annual written approval from the Attorney General as described in subsection (3). Any amendments to extend the contract period or increase the billing rate or overall contract amount shall be considered new contracts for purposes of the written approval process described in subsection (3).

F.S. 287.059 (16) Each private attorney who is under contract to provide attorney services for the state or a state agency shall, from the inception of the contractual relationship until at least 4 years after the contract expires or terminates, maintain detailed current records, including documentation of all expenses, disbursements, charges, credits, underlying receipts and invoices, and other financial transactions that concern the provision of such attorney services. The private attorney shall make all such records available for inspection and copying upon request in accordance with chapter 119.

To read all the sections – visit here.

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