How Many Attorneys Do We Really Need?

John Evans, NGU Risk Management

April, 2010

Elsewhere in this newsletter, you have noticed that TNRMT has decided to retain an attorney to assist members with legal questions and issues. You may wonder how many attorneys are really necessary to resolve an issue or, better yet, how many are necessary to avoid getting in to problems when good advice may keep you out of trouble.

This question is a good one and has no right or wrong answer from our perspective. The answer lies not in how many tools you possess but how you use them. Having a county or school attorney on retainer and having access to the TNRMT attorney could give rise to the question of conflicting opinions, but again, it is not about the resources, but how you choose to use them that matters.

An important point to keep in mind as you may ponder how and when to call on your local or retained attorney (or both) is to consider the issue at hand. Each of you has been in a position to wonder what would happen if you choose to take a certain course of action. The important point here is that you still have a choice and may be able to avoid legal trouble by asking for good advice and several opinions before trouble presents itself.

If you have been involved in governmental administration for even a short period of time, you have been the recipient of the dreaded lawsuit. When this inevitable situation arises, you have no choice but to follow your local government’s policies and call the attorney of choice. This attorney has been chosen by your local government to handle such situations.

We know our members use their best judgment in using their resources wisely. However, it is inevitable that an attorney will be needed at some time in your career in spite of careful planning and proper execution of your local government’s objectives. Your policies, procedures and execution of these will be challenged. As members, you will call on TNRMT to defend your interpretation and use of your policies and procedures when legal issues arise. There is a time when attorney advice should be given with consideration of your TNRMT program which is on the hook to pay any resulting costs or judgment amounts.

There are certainly times when calling the TNRMT attorney makes sense. Many other scenarios will come to mind as you consider this information. Each one is different and requires a different course of action. Whether to call one, two or more attorneys is a matter of need and personal judgment that should be considered with tempered thought after a determination of what you really need to accomplish. TNRMT is pleased to be able to offer an additional option should you decide advice of an attorney is warranted.