Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What law firms are collecting large legal fees from the city of Chicago

Posted By on 08.26.09 at 08:30 AM

This week Mayor Daley and his top lieutenants are holding a series of public hearings on the city's 2010 budget, which they've already said will be difficult to balance, even with an injection of funds from the parking meter deal.

As citizens put questions to the city's top leadership, maybe it's time to demand some answers about the city's mounting legal bills.

A couple months ago I noted that the city continues to pay out staggeringly high sums in lawsuit settlements and judgments: $256 million from the beginning of 2005 through the end of 2008, including more than $129 million in 2008 alone. Most of the money—$172 million in all—went toward cases that involved the police department.

But those payments aren't all those cases cost us: the city spent an additional $52 million getting help on them from private-sector lawyers. Law department spokeswoman Jenny Hoyle says there are three reasons the city enlists outside counsel: it has to avoid a conflict of interest, it needs an attorney with special expertise, or it doesn't have enough of its own staff available. The firms are selected based on their experience and expertise by corporation counsel Mara Georges and her top assistants, Hoyle says, and not through a competitive bid process.

Not surprisingly, a handful of firms have ended up with most of the business. While the city has used 89 different firms from the beginning of 2005 through April of this year, just 15 of them received more than $43 million in fees, or 80 percent of the total. These are the firms and the fees they collected from the city:

Dykema Gossett $5,793,192.06
Rock Fusco $5,435,502.33
Shefsky & Froelich $5,173,649.64
Freeborn & Peters $3,999,953.05
James G. Sotos & Associates $3,738,473.26
Winston & Strawn $3,677,704.24
Perkins Coie $3,402,456.84
Pugh, Jones, Johnson & Quandt $3,263,216.12
Franczek, Radelet & Rose $2,603,767.08
Greene and Letts $1,549,843.31
Andrew M. Hale & Associates $1,449,845.75
Jones Day $1,092,324.42
Foley & Lardner $742,400.52
Hubert, Fowler & Quinn $667,921.52
Michael Best & Friedrich $657,832.61

State campaign records show that lawyers with Winston & Strawn have donated at least $94,250 to the mayor, members of City Council, the city clerk, and the city treasurer since 2005, and those at Michael Best & Friedrich pitched in another $13,100. No other firms contributed more than $8,000 in that time.

FIRM / CONTRIBUTIONS
Dykema Gossett $1,000.00
Rock Fusco $1,500.00
Shefsky & Froelich $1,625.00
Freeborn & Peters $1,500.00
James G. Sotos & Associates $0
Winston & Strawn $94,250.00
Perkins Coie $7,500.00
Pugh, Jones, Johnson & Quandt $2,500.00
Franczek, Radelet & Rose $1,500.00
Greene and Letts $0
Andrew M. Hale & Associates $0
Jones Day $0
Foley & Lardner $2,487.29
Hubert, Fowler & Quinn $6,550.00
Michael Best & Friedrich $13,100.00

Still, pinstripe patronage doesn't necessarily boil down to who donated to whom. There are plenty of examples of the city picking lawyers (and other consultants and contractors) who have close personal or political relationships with the mayor and other powerful officials. It's well known that you don't want to get too close to any reformer or insurgent types if you want to get city contracts.

(James Ewert and Nicholas Teddy helped research this info.)

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