AG Morrisey Unveils Final Policy on Outside Counsel
CHARLESTON - Following a 45-day period for public comment, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has announced his office’s final policy on outside counsel - which requires transparency and competitive bidding for the appointment of private attorneys to represent the State and its agencies in legal proceedings.
“We are very pleased with both the input we received during the public comment period and the experience we gained during the implementation of the draft outside counsel policy,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “As a result, we believe that our final policy on outside counsel strikes an appropriate balance between the need for transparency and accountability in outside counsel hires and the desire to provide the State and its agencies with top-notch legal services.”
Over the course of the 45-day public comment period, the Attorney General’s Office received six formal comment letters that provided suggested improvements and/or clarifications to the outside counsel policy. The Office also received a number of informal comments expressing support for the overall intent of the policy. The draft period further allowed for the Attorney General’s Office to work with its state entity clients on implementation of the policy. To date, the Office has handled more than a dozen outside counsel matters pursuant to the draft policy, and has performed seven Requests for Proposal already.
As a result of the public comment period, the Office of the Attorney General has made several improvements to the policy. Those changes include the following:
• Expanding the factors to be considered during the competitive bidding process to consider any potential conflicts of interest as well as relevant input from the state entity client, if applicable;
• Revising the pre-bidding process to require both the re-evaluation of the pre-approved attorney list at least every two years and a written determination explaining the reasons for selecting a pre-approved attorney or firm any time the pre-bid list is utilized; and
• Clarifying the policy’s disclosure provisions to ensure that any and all written determinations are subject to public posting, except in such limited circumstances the posting could jeopardize the attorney-client privilege or confidential work product.
“This policy sends a strong message that West Virginia will be transparent and accountable with respect to the use of outside counsel,” Attorney General Morrisey explained. “With its implementation, West Virginia joins a number of states pursuing outside counsel reform and sets an example that will garner attention nationwide.”
A copy of the final Outside Counsel Policy and all relevant documents relating to outside counsel appointments made by the Office of the Attorney General are available at http://www.wvago.gov/outsidecounsel.cfm.