The Office of Attorney General historically handles more than 3,000 civil cases at any given time. Of those, approximately 95 percent are litigated by Special Assistant Attorneys General who are full-time state employees.
In accordance with state law, the Attorney General also periodically enters into contracts with private lawyers and law firms outside of the Office. In those small percentage of cases handled by private counsel, the Attorney General enters into either a fixed hourly rate or contingency fee contract. All contracts between the Attorney General's Office and private attorneys are freely available for inspection and are a matter of public record. Regardless of the type of contract entered into, the Attorney General's Office maintains full control over the litigation. The office supervises the work of the private attorneys and decides all litigation strategy matters.
The overwhelming majority of contracts with private counsel are fixed hourly rate contracts. Generally, the Attorney General's Office will retain private counsel on a fixed hourly rate when the litigation involves specialized areas of knowledge or practice in which the State of Mississippi would be better served by an attorney with specific expertise. For example, private attorneys have been retained in the specialized areas of eminent domain, bankruptcy, and copyright infringement. There are also a small number of instances in which private counsel are retained because ethics rules create a conflict which prohibit the case from being handled by our in-house Special Assistant Attorneys General.
With respect to hourly contracts, the Attorney General diligently negotiates the lowest possible fees and compares rates between interested and qualified law firms. The rates agreed to in these contracts are most often below the hourly rate paid by private clients for similar work. Also, the Attorney General requires the same detailed hourly invoices and time records as do private clients. As would a private client, the Attorney General's Office reviews the hourly time sheets of the private attorneys and does not pay for hours or expenses the office deems to be excessive.
Of the small number of cases in which private attorneys are used, an even smaller number are handled on a contingency fee contract basis. Contingency fee contracts are used when the litigation will require large expenditures of funds for numerous attorneys, expert witnesses, travel, and document management. The Office of the Attorney General does not have a sufficient number of attorneys to devote to such projects or the budget funds necessary to cover expenses. The private attorneys are compensated for their work through contingency fees - meaning they are paid only in the event of a successful outcome on behalf of the State. Utilizing outside counsel on a contingency fee basis saves the State from such expenses and protects the State should the litigation not result in recovery. The Attorney General's Office standard contingency fee contract contains a fee schedule that is significantly below the rates paid by private clients and is also below established bar rates. A private attorney may be authorized to pursue a contingency fee case on behalf of the State, if he or she brings the particular matter to the attention of the Attorney General's Office. However, the Attorney General must first determine whether the particular matter has merit and will benefit the State; whether the Attorney General's Office can handle the case in house; and, if not, whether the outside attorney(s) has sufficient resources and skill to handle the litigation. If the attorney does not have the resources, then he or she still has the case, but must associate counsel with the resources.
All contracts of employment of outside counsel are public record. The Office of Attorney General is diligent in its efforts to make these available to interested persons. The following contracts represent active contingency fee cases. This list will be updated periodically as cases are resolved and new cases are added.