TLR: Contingency fee bill will keep law firms accountable to Texas taxpayers
By: David Yates
AUSTIN – Seeking to restructure and bring transparency to how local governments hire law firms, a sister bill to HB 2826 has followed in the Senate.
Sen. Joan Huffman, a Republican out of Sugar Land, introduced SB 28 on March 8. The bill’s counterpart was filed a week earlier.
Both pieces of legislation relate to the “procurement of a contingent fee contract for legal services by a state agency or political subdivision.”
In other words, unlike the state, contingency fee agreements with local governments are percentage based instead of based on “reasonable” hour rates – an arrangement the bills aim to change.
Texans for Lawsuit Reform believes the bills will bring transparency when local governments hire outside attorneys on contingency fee contracts.
“Local governments must have the ability to contract with private attorneys, and contingency fee contracts based on the successful completion of the government’s case can be appropriate in some cases,” said TLR General Counsel Lee Parsley.
“At the same time, Texas taxpayers have the right to know the details when a private law firm is handling the government’s work, and they have the right to expect the government will keep the lion’s share of any money recovered in the lawsuit.”
The bills require state entities to negotiate a contract with the “most highly qualified” attorney, not just the firms that solicit them.
They also require local governments to publicly post that they are hiring a private attorney.
“These bills bring transparency to the contracting process, keeping law firms accountable to Texas taxpayers and their government clients,” Parsley said.
“It also ensures the best lawyers will be hired at reasonable fees and makes the standards for contingent-fee contracts by local governments consistent with those followed by the state of Texas.”
SB 28 was referred to State Affairs on March 11.