The Texas Local Government Code authorizes municipalities to retain attorneys to represent them in a variety of matters. The Code is silent, however, about how to go about choosing a law firm for your municipality. It’s an important decision. As a public official entrusted with protecting the interests of your community, you need a municipal attorney who not only has the expertise to handle the wide variety of matters that can confront municipal government but also who has a deep appreciation for the duties you owe to your constituents. In this article, we offer some thoughts on how to make this important choice of a city attorney.
A Track Record in Municipal Representation
Municipal law is not an area of legal practice that lawyers can dabble in. The responsibilities of a municipal attorney require a deep familiarity with how municipal government operates, from decision-making to budgeting to when and how to share information with the public. Accordingly, the first factor to consider when searching is whether that firm has a track record of representing local governments. Ask if the firm has been and is currently retained by other municipalities around the state. If the answer isn’t yes on both counts, you would be taking a significant risk with taxpayer funds by hiring that firm.
A Breadth of Expertise and Capacity
As any municipal official knows, the variety of local government issues seems endless. At any given time, it’s not unusual for a municipality to be juggling legal issues relating to land use disputes, interactions with state and federal agencies, police and code enforcement, and elections, to name just a few. To be an effective advocate for the municipality, your lawyer needs to be prepared to give detailed, knowledgeable counsel to you on all of those issues. That is why many local governments select a law firm with a diverse set of practice areas to represent them.
It’s also important that a municipal attorney have the time and resources to respond comprehensively to your needs. As mentioned above, it’s important for the law firm you select to have a track record in municipal representation. In choosing a municipal attorney it’s also important to ensure that the lawyers you select will be available to you when you need them. In other words, before you say yes to any law firm to represent your municipality, find out how deep the bench is.
A Presence in Your Community
Texas is home to many talented lawyers and law firms. But, it’s also a big state with a broad diversity of local issues. Even the best municipal lawyer in Houston, for instance, may lack the necessary sensitivity to the concerns of citizens in West Texas, and may not be an effective municipal counsel there. In choosing a law firm for your municipality, you should make sure you have a lawyer who understands the legal, political, and financial aspects of issues in your community.
Founded in 1912, the Underwood Law Firm has been representing municipal interests around Texas for decades. With a deep bench and wide range of legal expertise, we are able to provide timely, sophisticated legal advice to our municipal clients no matter when or how an issue arises. And, with five offices around the state, our lawyers have an intimate understanding of the concerns that motivate local governments and the citizens they serve.
To find out more about how the Underwood Law Firm can provide dependable, expert counsel to your municipality, contact us today.