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Everywhere, overly-generous retentions of outside counsel raise hackles (Kenya)

You might have missed this news. To handle a case that was adjourned after only five days of argument, the Office of the Attorney General of Kenya – more precisely, its State Law Office that includes 50 lawyers – unilaterally and secretively retained and paid six lawyers equal portions of Ksh72 million ($1 million). It was not just any case, but was high-profile litigation arising from a major financial scandal, and it was the government defending itself from a suit to have the Kenyan parliament stopped from taking over the constitutional review process. The article in the East African, Feb. 27-March 5, 2006 exposes the arrangement and surfaces several concerns .

The four issues raised by the critics of the arrangement should resonate for any law department. Did the law department need to hire so many outside lawyers? Did the government’s law department get value for the amount it paid? Should the retention have been done through an open tender system (competitive bidding)? Does the practice of commonly hiring external counsel weaken the development of the law department’s own staff?