Division of Law

Outside Counsel

Outside Counsel

The Division of Law is responsible for providing legal representation to the State’s departments, boards, and commissions. Although the Division’s in-house attorneys handle the vast majority of these matters, in certain cases, the Division retains private law firms to serve as the lawyers for a client agency.

The Division’s retention of outside counsel is subject to a number of rules and restrictions to ensure that the State receives the highest quality representation at the lowest possible cost. In 2009, Governor Jon Corzine issued Executive Order 157, which established an open and transparent process for hiring outside counsel and remains in effect today.

Under EO 157, the Division may only retain private law firms that have been pre-qualified to provide legal services in a particular practice area. The Division maintains lists of pre-qualified firms—known as “Approved Special Counsel Lists”—for a variety of practices, from complex litigation to medical malpractice to labor counsel. The Division updates these lists on a rotating basis, with each list revised approximately once every three years. Before updating a particular list, the Division issues a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) and publicizes the RFQ throughout the New Jersey legal community. To join the mailing list to be notified of new RFQs, click here. [Link to email list submission form]

In rare cases, the Division will retain a firm that is not included on an Approved Special Counsel List, typically when the legal matter requires highly specialized legal skills that are not readily available from the pre-qualified firms. In these cases, the Division must obtain authorization from the Governor to designate a firm as special counsel for that specific matter.

Rules governing the retention of outside counsel

Law firms retained by the Division of Law are required to comply with the Division’s Outside Counsel Guidelines, which were last updated in January 2015. The Guidelines include detailed information about conflicts of interest, staffing, billing, confidentiality, and engagement of third-party vendors, among other topics.

One common question is whether a private law firm can perform work for a particular state agency when that firm also represents clients adverse to a different state agency. The issue has been discussed in a number of ethics opinions and court rulings, which were most recently summarized in a May 2019 Attorney General letter.

In certain limited circumstances, law firms are permitted to provide pro bono legal services to state agencies. Such practices are governed by Executive Order 81, issued by Governor Phil Murphy in September 2019.

Ensuring the diversity of outside counsel

The Division has long been committed to ensuring that its Approved Special Counsel Lists reflect the diversity of New Jersey’s legal community, including those who practice at women- and minority-owned law firms. In 2018, Attorney General Grewal took steps to reaffirm that commitment, requiring that all law firms participating in the RFQ process complete a “diversity questionnaire” that includes information about firm’s demographic composition. In addition, the Department’s Chief Diversity Officer is responsible for coordinating with various state bar associations to ensure that all interested lawyers learn about the opportunities available.

Approved Special Counsel Lists

Below are the lists of private law firms pre-qualified to provide legal representation through the Division of Law.

Approved Special Councel Lists

 

Requests for Qualifications

From time to time, the Division issues RFQs seeking submissions for particular practice areas. Below are all current RFQs, along with the due date for submission. Also included are recent RFQs and Responses to Questions.

Due Date Request for Qualifications
01/31/20 Special Counsel for Intellectual Property Matters
10/03/19

E-Cigarette Litigation

– Addendum No. 1

– Response to Questions

11/12/18 Agency Visa & Immigration Issues
11/12/18

Complex Litigation

– Response to Questions

11/12/18

Labor Negotiations

– Response to Questions

10/17/18 Special Counsel for Firearms Safety Litigation
10/04/18

Special Counsel for Natural Resource Damages Litigation

– Response to Questions 2

– Response to Questions 1

 

Learning more

Have additional questions about the process?  Contact the Division of Law here. [Link to submission form]

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