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September 09, 1993 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-09-09

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The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 9, 1993 -5
In court battles, principles outweigh costs I is|''"r th' 1

LEGAL FEES
Continued from page 1
University last year after the regents cut
off its funding.
$65,617 to cover the University's
court battle against the National Orga-
nization for the Reform of Marijuana
Laws (NORML), which sued for a per-
mit for the annual Hash Bash rally.
$53,170 in the University's ongo-
ing fight to uphold the legality of Presi-
dent James Duderstadt's 1988 hiring,
which two news-
papers sayviolated
the state's Open
Meetings Act. The
University has
spent a total of
$143,413 on the
case to date.
In all, outside
attorneys handled
about69caseslast Cole
year. These cases
were mostly lawsuits, as well as some
out-of-court legal matters like estates
and administrative hearings.
The annual caseload has ranged from
49 to 77 since 1984-85, when the Uni-
versity first started tallying its outside
legal expenses.
But the average case costs twice as
much to handle now than it did nine
years ago.
A computer analysis of University
records shows that the average cost per
case has climbed from $7,478 to
$14,994.
Total spending started at just over
$500,000 and broke the $1 million bar-
rier for the first time this past year.
Two obvious factors are higher at-
tomey feesand increasing costs ofhigher
education. While outsideattorneyspend-
ingwentup 114percent,theUniversity's
general-fund spending also rose 91 per-
cent.
In addition, the University has taken
an increasingly aggressive approach to
lawsuits, refusing to sacrifice its stan-
dards, Cole said.

These figures illustrate the gradual growth in the amount of money the University pays outside law firms
to handle lawsuits and out-of-court legal work such as estates and administrative hearings.

$1,0001 w
$900,00-o
$800,000
$700,00
$600,000
$500,000
$400,000
$300,000
$200,000
$100,000

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198"S 198586 1986.87

1987488 1988-89 1989.90 1990.91 1991-92 1992-93

Source: Legal & consulting fees, 1984-85 through 1992-93, Office of the General Counsel

For instance, the $91,916 the Uni-
versity spent fighting to sever its ties
with MCC was more than three times
the $25,000 in annual funding that the
University previously gave the group.
And the $65,617 theUniversity spent
in its case against NORML dwarfed the
estimated $8,000 cost of providing po-
lice services for this year's Hash Bash.
Bob Carbeck, who represented
NORML in its lawsuit against the Uni-
versity, calledtheUniversity'slegalcosts
"obscene," and criticized the
University's choice of Miller, Canfield,
Paddock & Stone as its legal counsel in
the NORML case.
"There are much smaller firms in
southeastern Michiganthatareperfectly
capable of doing the kind of work that
the University keeps farming out to
silk-stocking firms," Carbeck said.
Cole said in response, "We go with
thebestfirmto deal with the problem. In
my opinion, we chose the best person
(to handle the NORML case)."
Two large Detroit firms - Butzel,

Long, Gust, Klein & Van Zile, and
MillerCanfield -handled themajority
of the University's outside legal work
last year.
Two Ann Arbor fens - Davis &
Fajen and Hooper, Hathaway, Price
Beuche & Wallace - each handled
substantial amounts, while a few mis-
cellaneous cases went to other attor-
neys.
Cole said the University chose these
fenns based on their reputations and
expertise. Butzel Long, Davis & Fajen,
and Miller Canfield specialize in em-
ployment-law issues, she said.
Cole has tried to relegate more law-
suits to her in-house staff of 12 attor-
neys, who handle roughly 10percent of
the University's lawsuits.
But she said the University needs
them in the office - not bound up in
court - so they can work with admin-
istrators and handle such tasks as con-
tracts, internal hearings and grievances.
Moreover, she said, outside fenns
can provide more expertise in certain

areas of the law.
"It's hard to have a depth of knowl-
edge in a particular area with a small
staff where people do a little of every-
thing," Cole said.
'You cannot have the same depth of
expertiseas someone who does just that
one thing over and over again," she
said.
Mary Elizabeth Kurz, legal counsel
at Michigan State University, said large
universities commonly retain the ser-
vices of outside law firms.
Michigan State handles most of its
lawsuits through its own attorneys be-
cause of the cost-savings and because
its attorneys are more familiar with the
university, Kurz said.
But even so, it often seeks outside
legal help.
"Any university in-house staff is not
going to be as large or have all the areas
of expertise as an outside law fin,"
said Kurz, who recently served as presi-
dent of the National Association of
College and University Attorneys.

Co.4me on down!.

We'll be havingtwo (2) really exciting mass meetings for
anybody interested in working on .e campus.
newspaper(17,000 copies a day, one for you and all
yourfriends). See youthere! 7:30 p.m. Next Thursday.

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