City spends $7.1 million on outside lawyers

Ballard Spahr got $1.5 million for labor negotations

Link: Outside counsel blows legal budget [Inky]

Of the $7.1 million, the biggest expense - a total of $1.5 million - stems from costs related to the city's negotiations with its four municipal unions. That work is handled by the Center City firm of Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll L.L.P., where Smith once worked, and New Jersey-based Archer & Greiner P.C.

Smith said the city did not issue a request for proposals, but interviewed five firms to determine which lawyers should help the city in its labor negotiations.

"The process consisted of informally soliciting proposals for the work and firm resumes, and interviewing the proposing attorneys for more detail about their proposals," she said. No formal proposal process was conducted in part because each firm had existing contracts with the city, and initiating a new process would have "unnecessarily delayed our preparation process."

Ballard Spahr was selected because it had the most recent experience with labor negotiations with all four unions, and because Shannon Farmer, the lead negotiator, has "an excellent reputation among and relationship with the attorneys representing the other unions," Smith said.

Of Archer & Greiner, Smith said its attorneys had detailed experience with specific departmental issues related to the contract talks.

In past years, the city has negotiated contracts that last for four years. But since the Nutter administration last year struck one-year contracts that expire June 30, the city's associated legal costs are higher than usual.

"It has been kind of a nonstop labor process," Dubow said.

Including other matters handled by both firms, Ballard Spahr is expected to earn $1.7 million by year's end - making it the Law Department's top paid law firm - while Archer & Greiner is anticipated to receive $1.5 million.