Sunday, January 3, 2010

Lawyers needed at municipal sessions?

Read Cal Skinner's blog today (January 3, 2010) and answer the question that he asks in the title. "Do Lawyers Have to Attend Every Municipal Board Meeting?"

OK, if you are a lawyer practicing municipal law, you're excused from answering. We know your answer.

Everyone else? What do you think? For example, should the City of Woodstock incur the expense it does to have its City Attorney sitting up front with the Mayor, the Council persons and the City Manager at every City Council meeting?

At many, if not most, meetings he never utters a word. At some meetings he will offer an opinion, but only when requested by the Mayor. He is not there to answer questions for residents, unless the mayor or a councilperson wishes to ask him the question from the resident. He isn't your attorney; he is their attorney.

I don't know the going rate for a municipal attorney/partner of the City's law firm to show up twice a month. Sometimes the meetings are short - as short as 15-20 minutes. Sometimes,the meetings run 3-4-6 hours. Does he bill $300/hour for every hour there? Does he bill travel time? Is there a minimum billing, such as two hours, in the event of a super-short meeting?

Or is the monthly bill from the City's law firm a flat rate, or flat rate up to a certain number of hours? If it's a flat rate, then the rate will surely be lower, if he doesn't attend every meeting.

There might be certain meetings where the lawyer's presence could be considered necessary, such as when a sticky issue is on the agenda. But most meetings?

Could the City lop $50,000/year or more off its legal bill by sharply reducing the number of twice-monthly meetings at which the City Attorney was present? Would City business slow down that much, if its legal counsel weren't present at every meeting?

I doubt it.

1 comment:

Another Lawyer said...

A. I don't think the municipal guys get paid that much and,

2. I believe they get a flat rate that is much below average hourly rate.

P.S. I did the, A, then 2 thing on purpose.