The Department of Law and Public Safety is pleased to announce that in fall 2022, the Division of Law will issue several new Requests for Qualifications (“RFQs”) for Outside Counsel. The State of New Jersey frequently hires law firms as Outside Counsel to represent the State in litigation, bond, and other legal matters. The new RFQs will update the Division’s existing lists of qualified firms. Legal organizations will be able to apply for the new RFQs using a new online application tool.
The new RFQs and online application process are part of a number of new initiatives for Outside Counsel starting this fall. The Division created a new emailing list registration link for Outside Counsel news, including new RFQs. The Division’s Outside Counsel Guidelines were updated and became effective on November 1, 2022.
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.
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. Over the past several months, the Guidelines have undergone a thorough revision and are posted here for a reference. The new Guidelines go into effect on November 1, 2022. 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 304, issued by Governor Phil Murphy in August 2022
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.
Requests for Qualifications
From time to time, the Division issues RFQs seeking submissions for particular practice areas.