Minnesota Lawyer has an interesting article posted on its website about the I-35W bridge report. Gray Plant Mooty -- the private local firm that the Legislature hired to investigate the circumstances of the bridge collapse -- agreed when it took the job to cap its fees at $500K. After thousands of hours spent on the project -- and a big investment of IT-resources -- the firm submitted a 15-inch thick report critical of the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
If the state had paid the firm's hourly rate, the cost of the firm's involvement would have substantially exceeded the $500K fee. The state would have been more likely have had to pay somewhere in the $600K-$800K range. The firm said in an interview that it knew when it took on the project that the $500K would not cover its investment of attorney time and related costs incurred in generating the report. However, the firm also said it wanted to be involved both to make sure the investigation got done right and as a public service to the state.
This begs a question: Can the "uncompensated" attorney time the firm's attorneys put in once the $500K had been exhausted be classified as pro bono? There is no clear answer. Another way to look at it is that the firm actually gave the state "reduced rate" representation by bidding an amount it knew was too low to cover its usual hourly rate.
In any event, the firm certainly got a million dollars worth of marketing out of the deal. Its name was splashed in newspapers and television reports throughout the state as the "private law firm hired by lawmakers" to complete a report on the bridge collapse. The only real "negative" publicity the firm arguably got was from the Strib's Katherine Kersten ("News flash: Law firm hired by DFL legislators to investigate bridge collapse finds DFL was right!"). Kersten herself has a legal background and presumably knows that a major law firm is not going to risk its hard-earned reputation to slant a report for a client, but that did not stop her from implying that it would. Sigh.
Well, they say there is no such thing as bad publicity so long as they spell your name right. ... Now was that Gray Plant or Grey Plant? I keep forgetting ....