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Attorney: In-house litigators save Evanston money

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Evanston's city attorney says the city's decision to reduce the use of outside counsel to handle court cases is saving the city substantial amounts of money.

In response to a question from Evanston Now about the costs of the switch to using in house counsel for litigation work, Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar says that while the costs of in-house staff has increased, that's been more than made up by the reduction in the cost of hiring outside attorneys to represent the city.

The shift to having city staff attorneys litigate most court cases began after Farrar was hired as city attorney in November 2009.

Farrar says that during fiscal year 2009-10 the city spent $451,699 on payroll for its in-house legal staff, while the projected payroll cost for this year is $609,613.

The city had four attorneys and two part-time law clerks then, although one attorney left in mid-year. It now has five full-time attorneys.

In 2009-10, Farrar said, the city spent $548,277 on outside attorneys. It's spent about $62,000 so far this year for outside counsel, which, assuming the spending level continues for the rest of the year, would add up to  about $186,000 for the year.

And Farrar says the city's in-house staff has been doing better in winning tort liability cases. In 2009-10 the city paid out $316,273 in tort liability judgments, versus only $2,300 so far this year.

Farrar says the city now handles between 80 and 90 percent of its cases in-house. He added, "Thus far in this fiscal year, I estimate we saved over $300,000" in outide legal fees that would have been incurred for the three cases taken to trial by in-house staff this year.

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