Government law departments that cannot retain outside counsel

A piece about John Bellinger, the “senior legal advisor to the U.S. Department of State,” in the Nat’l L.J., Vol. 28, April 24, 2006 at 8, mentions that “security concerns preclude the retention of outside counsel.” The 165 attorneys under Bellinger, augmented by 140 professionals and support staff, for that reason perform all the Department’s legal work in-house, “with the use of consultants under limited circumstances.”

Law departments that support other government agencies have similar shackles on their entitlement to retain outside counsel, and thus must become self-sufficient. Yet I have never seen research that compares the morale, technology, culture, organization or budgets of similar law departments that have the choice to use outside counsel, but I suspect that if you could factor out other differences (notably for profit vs. government), the comparative management circumstances would be profound.

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