Management of Outside Legal Counsel
The Office of General Counsel is available to provide legal services and counseling to all University units and personnel for matters related to the operation of the University. In some instances, either special expertise is necessary or timing dictates that outside legal services be engaged. The following “tips” are provided to assist you in initiating the engagement of outside legal counsel and to offer suggestions on the effective management of those services:
- All use of outside counsel must be approved by the S.C. attorney general. It is against S.C. law to use counsel that has not been approved in advance. This is true regardless of the source of funds. CUF, CURF, et al. are private not-for-profit corporations, and they can engage these services without AG approval. However, they cannot contract for legal services to be provided to the University or for a University function. The Office of General Counsel will process and assist you in obtaining the necessary approval from the attorney general. Please contact us at 864-656-3414. We will provide instructional information and assistance in this process. It typically takes 30-45 days to obtain approval.
- Attorneys’ services are professional services exempted from state procurement regulations. Nevertheless, prudent stewardship demands that we seek to get the best price for outside legal services. The OGC will generally not question the request to appoint a particular attorney. However, in cases where the expertise in question is readily available or there is an existing approval that would suit the needs being addressed, we will discuss these alternatives with you. In some cases, an RFP may result in significant savings. Our goal is to work with you to ensure that you have quality legal services at the greatest savings to the University.
- Once approved, the outside counsel will be notified of their appointment and the terms of their engagement by a letter from the OGC. A copy of this letter will be sent to you; upon its receipt, you may begin utilizing the services of the outside counsel.
- Once appointed, outside attorneys are required to submit regular bills, on a monthly basis, for their services to the Office of General Counsel. These bills will need to be submitted, along with an AG Form 2. Attorneys will be approved for a specified, maximum hourly rate and a monetary ceiling, neither of which can be exceeded for the period of time they are retained. The OGC will not authorize reimbursement for any invoice that exceeds the approved hourly rates or ceilings. You should review each bill carefully to ensure that it is accurate. For instance, if a charge for a meeting with you or your staff is included, be sure that your calendar confirms that such a meeting took place. Any unusual or apparently inaccurate charges should be brought to the attention of the OGC. All bills will be sent directly from the firm to the OGC for approval for payment, where they will be checked to make sure that the ceiling is not exceeded and hourly rates are accurate. The bills will then be sent to your department for payment. At that point, it becomes the department’s responsibility to review the bills and make sure they are accurate before making payment. Any discrepancies or issues identified should be brought to the attention of the outside attorney and an explanation requested.
- As pointed out earlier, there is a monetary ceiling that is approved by the AG’s Office for the period of time the outside attorney is retained. The OGC will monitor invoices as they come in. If we notice that the amount being paid to the attorney is approaching the ceiling limit, you will be notified, and a decision will be made on whether or not to request that the ceiling be increased. Someone in your department should also monitor payments. No invoices will be paid that exceed the approved ceilings.
- Legal advice can be very expensive and legal issues can become more complex and time-consuming than originally anticipated. These factors can sometimes lead to unexpectedly high expenses for outside legal counsel. There are a few steps which should be taken to help manage the cost of outside legal services:
- Outline the facts you wish to obtain from a phone conversation in advance to reduce the time on the phone (phone calls are considered billable hours). Do not engage in a lengthy exchange of pleasantries. You will be billed for this.
- Make it clear that you are only engaging the services of one attorney and that we will not pay for additional lawyers or paralegals attending meetings or teleconferences unless we have specifically agreed to it in advance.
- Understand that usually when outside counsel “offers” to provide an additional benefit or service, you will be billed for it. Don’t accept these “offers” unless you are willing to pay for them.
- Where possible, volunteer to do much of the work yourself. For example, gathering and collating documents can generally be done more quickly and efficiently in-house. Attorneys will gladly offer to do it for you, but again, you will pay for this service.
- Insist that all communications from the attorney be with one designated person in your department unless you specifically authorize differently. Communications with multiple Clemson University personnel can cause confusion and will generate multiple responses to the attorney, each of which will be billed. Collect comments internally and send one response to the attorney so that there is only one review.
- Do not hesitate to ask questions about your bills. Many attorneys’ bills are very sparse, and it is your right as the client to request an explanation of any charges.
- When presented with alternative approaches or solutions to a problem, always ask for an estimate of the cost and time involved in each.
- When face-to-face meetings or conferences are necessary, meeting with the attorney at his/her office instead of on campus may save money. Typically, attorneys bill for the time traveling to and from meetings and may also include mileage and meals associated with the trip.
The OGC is available at any time to consult with you on any facet of the management of outside counsel. Please do not hesitate to contact us at 864-656-3414 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.