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Savings from SAO Handling In-house Matters

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The State’s Attorney is the statutory legal counsel for the County. Due to the uniqueness and complexity of employment law and labor negotiations, this legal work was commonly outsourced at a considerable expense to private law firms who routinely practice in the area of law. State’s Attorney Kenneally has resolved to bring these legal matters in-house and has cultivated the necessary expertise within the State's Attorney’s Office (SAO) to do so. This measurement reports on the value of the labor and employment-related legal representation that would have otherwise been outsourced and billable by private attorneys. For Fiscal Year 2018, The State's Attorney's Office saved an estimated $345,800 that would otherwise have been spent on private representation.

Why Is It Important?

  • Beginning in 2016, the State's Attorney's Office started the process of transitioning the majority of labor-related legal issues and negotiations in-house. This transition has saved taxpayers approximately $190,000 in Fiscal Year 2017 alone. 
  • It is difficult to effectively budget for private legal counsel because of the billable hour structure. The total fees for the year will vary based on the complexity of the cases, the number of contracts negotiated and other variables.  Using in-house counsel is consistent as the personnel costs are relatively fixed.
  • The State's Attorney's Office has only one client, McHenry County, and as such can be more flexible in scheduling negotiation and labor matters.
  • Using in-house counsel can develop institutional knowledge of the negotiation history which is valuable for more effective future negotiations.

Relationship to Strategic Plan Long-Term Goal: Operate at the Lowest Possible Tax Levy

 Prior to State's Attorney Kenneally’s administration, private attorneys were hired to represent the County in the majority of employment and labor issues and negotiations that his office is now handling. In the year prior to State's Kenneally taking office, from November 2015 to December 2016, the County spent approximately $270,000 on outside attorneys. In Kenneally’s first year in office, from December 2016 to November 2017, the amount spent on outside attorneys was reduced dramatically to approximately $80,000. This savings was realized without increasing staff. State’s Attorney Kenneally commented, “We have highly qualified and experienced attorneys that can handle labor and employment matters and are able to provide first-class legal representation at a fraction of the price. It is a win for the County and a win for the taxpayer.”

This program and approach continues and with it, so does the development and cultivation of this specialization within the SAO’s office. In Fiscal Year 2018, two outside labor attorneys were no longer used to assist with negotiations and the reliance on a third was greatly diminished.

This change in approach results in direct general fund cost control. While there are still costs associated with the in-house legal counsel, it is at a fraction of a cost compared to the outside attorneys. Labor negations sometimes become protracted and are often associated with much downtime which, with outside counsel, is still billable at their full rate. The use of in-house staff allows the County to reduce the expense associated with labor negations and employment matters and better absorb the downtime characteristic of labor negotiations.

A secondary benefit is that this approach allows the County to be more responsive to negotiation scheduling since attorney availability is not dependent on the needs and schedules of other clients. This is a process efficiency that benefits both the County’s negotiating team and the employee bargaining unit alike.


Based on the premise that legal counsel for labor and employment matters would otherwise be provided through outside attorneys on an hourly basis, the value of in-house legal representation is determined by calculating the staff hours directly attributable to complex labor and employment matters times the hourly rate that the County was previously charged by outside counsel. The hourly rate used for this calculation is $175.00, which is the lowest of the per hour rates billed to the County by the previous outside attorneys.  This calculation will be reevaluated annually and recorded in the History section of this webpage.



 Additional Information

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