Private Attorneys:

Information on the Federal Government's Use of Private Attorneys

GGD-93-17FS: Published: Oct 20, 1992. Publicly Released: Nov 20, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the federal government's use of private attorneys, focusing on: (1) the authorities agencies cite to contract for legal services; and (2) attorneys' fees awarded to prevailing parties.

GAO found that: (1) 59 agencies reported awarding 4,567 contracts and paying $587 million for legal services during fiscal year (FY) 1991; (2) 123 of the 147 agencies providing information reported that they had authority to contract for legal services; (3) reasons given by agencies for using private attorneys included the need for expertise, cost savings, legislative mandates, local court rules requiring the use of private attorneys, and emergencies dictating the use of such services; (4) during FY 1991, 2,200 awards and $26 million in attorneys' fees were paid to prevailing parties; (5) 70 percent of payments resulted from judicial proceedings, and the remaining resulted from administrative proceedings; and (6) the Judicial Conference of the United States concluded that a government-wide limitation on the use of private attorneys was inadvisable because it might prevent the government from obtaining high quality legal services.

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