Principles for the Selection of Outside Counsel
Process for selecting outside counsel.
The Office of the General Counsel is responsible for representing the University of Michigan in all legal matters related to university operations involving the University, faculty, and staff. The General Counsel is responsible for determining the appropriate legal resources to be dedicated to all legal matters related to University operations. The General Counsel is responsible for deciding whether to retain an outside attorney for any particular legal matter. Since the size and scope of University operations generate a substantial amount and variety of legal issues the OGC is required to supplement the attorney office staff by appointing outside counsel to represent the University on various matters. The OGC utilizes outside counsel for the following reasons:
- The matter involves a specialized area of the law or expertise that is not possessed by attorneys on the OGC staff.
- The attorneys on staff cannot handle the matter due to an extraordinary demand on office resources.
- The OGC determines that a conflict exists on a particular matter. (Example in-house attorneys cannot represent University and employee in the same matter due to a conflict.)
- The matter arises in another state or country.
Factors used in selecting particular attorneys or law firms.
The selection of an outside attorney or law firm to represent the University can be based on several factors, the weight of which will vary with the matter to be assigned.
- The expertise and resources of the attorney or law firm indicate that they can competently handle the matter to be assigned.
- The attorney or law firm is familiar with the University of Michigan and/or is familiar with the issues relating to representing a major research University and health system.
- The attorney or law firm has provided good service in other matters handled for the University.
- The fees charged by the attorney or law firm are reasonable.
Administrative and financial controls.
The Office of the General Counsel has the following administrative and financial controls in place to supervise the representation of outside counsel:
- The decision to assign a matter to outside counsel is subject to review and approval by the General Counsel or the Deputy General Counsel.
- An OGC attorney is assigned to supervise each matter assigned to outside counsel. The staff attorney is responsible for reviewing and approving the legal strategy utilized in the assigned matter. The staff attorney is also responsible for reviewing and approving all legal fees submitted in each matter. The legal bills are subsequently reviewed by and approved by the Deputy General Counsel.
- The budget for outside counsel is reviewed monthly by the Deputy General Counsel, Chief of Staff, and Fleming Shared Services manager.
- In some matters that generate a high volume, the Office of the General Counsel has negotiated flat fees for particular legal matters rather than an hourly rate. The flat fee improves budgeting predictability and encourages efficiency in the handling of legal matters.
- The Office has established standard guidelines for outside counsel, which are included in each retention agreement.
- The OGC regularly reviews staffing levels against outside counsel fees to determine whether it is more cost efficient to hire staff or continue to pay outside counsel bills.