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Morrisey: Outside lawyers must bid on jobs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is setting up a new system for hiring outside lawyers who represent state agencies.

On Thursday, Morrisey announced a policy that requires private attorneys to bid on state legal work, which is supervised by the Attorney General's Office.

The policy also limits contingency fees that outside lawyers may collect.

Morrisey said the new policy is needed because of "past questions surrounding appointment of outside counsel."

Morrisey, who defeated former attorney general Darrell McGraw in the November election, sharply criticized McGraw's hiring practices during the campaign.

The new hiring policy will take effect July 16.

"While I believe the team of talented lawyers who already work in the [office] will be able to handle most issues that arise, there are cases in which the use of outside counsel may be required," Morrisey said. "In those instances, we will use a competitive-bidding process to make sure we get high-quality services at reasonable prices."

Morrisey's policy also limits lawyer contingency fees to 25 percent of the first $10 million recovered for the state, and 5 percent if recovered funds exceed $25 million.

"In no event shall the aggregate contingency fee for any legal matter exceed $50 million," the proposed policy says.

The policy also requires that attorneys or law firms selected for state jobs "work under the direct supervision of the Attorney General's Office."

Morrisey's office won't hire private lawyers unless it's determined that the hiring is "both cost-effective and in the interest of the public," according to the policy.

New rules also mandate that outside lawyers keep more detailed records about their time spent working for the state.

Morrisey is soliciting public comment on the new policy for the next 45 days. His office plans to review comments and start taking steps to implement the change April 15.

Morrisey said he wants to hear from as many lawyers as possible. A copy of the policy is available at www.wvago.gov/outsidecounsel.cfm.

Reach Eric Eyre at ericeyre@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.


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