February 4, 2013

The National Law Journal

by Amanda Bronstad

Bell, Calif., briefly occupied the nation's attention when the Los Angeles Times made front-page news of rumors that the troubled city in an unglamorous section of Los Angeles County was paying its civic leaders mind-bogglingly exorbitant salaries. State and county leaders, including then-state Attorney General Jerry Brown, opened investigations. Criminal charges ensued, as did civil actions against the city and the law firms that had been advising it.

Cities sometimes enter into private bond transactions, especially when they believe public markets might be too costly given their bond rating, according to Lisa Greer Quateman, managing partner of Polsinelli Shughart's Los Angeles office and a specialist in bond work. Billing rates vary, depending on factors including the attorneys' level of expertise and a deal's complexity, but rates of more than $600 per hour aren't unheard of.

Malpractice suits are fairly rare in that field, she said—"In general, bond lawyers are pretty careful." Still, "to the extent you have public entities unable to fulfill their obligations under their bonds, you'll see participants in the transaction looking in every direction seeking to find blame and deep pockets," she said.

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