The state of Illinois spent just over $24.1 million in legal fees during Fiscal Year 2020, according to records from the comptroller’s office.
In a year defined by disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the numbers weren’t all that different from previous years. The sum reported paid to 250 different lawyers and firms is about $1.4 million less than the $25.5 million spent in FY2019. The state’s fiscal years run from July 1 to June 30.
For at least the third year in a row, employment law firm Laner Muchin Ltd. brought in the most of any private firm, receiving checks worth more than $1.03 million during FY2020. Laner was the only private firm to cash seven figures in state checks.
The Chicago firm handles the government’s appeals before the Labor Relations Board and also represents the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority in legal matters.
State records also list payments to Laner from contracts with the Illinois Treasurer, the State Board of Education, the Illinois Secretary of State, Central Management Services and the Illinois Attorney General.
Next among private firms is DLA Piper, which was paid $924,974 in 2020. Records from the comptroller indicate the payments were part of an ongoing contract to provide legal consulting to the Teachers’ Retirement System, the pension program for Illinois public school teachers outside of Chicago.
Third on the list of private firms is Naperville plaintiff’s lawyer Robert H. Farley Jr., who received $528,264 in January 2020 for contractual services. Last year, the Daily Law Bulletin reported that Farley represented a class of disabled children in a suit against the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services over in-home nursing services covered by Medicaid.
The numbers reflect that more than half the year’s legal expenses are routed from state coffers to counties. Fourteen Illinois counties cashed more than $13.8 million during the fiscal year, funding lawyers to handle child-support cases.
An additional $168,000 went to other government units or agencies, with $2,432 to the Teachers’ Retirement System, $12,786 to the Illinois Attorney General, $108,358 to the Illinois Commerce Commission, $3,765 to Chicago State University and $40,901 to the Illinois Math and Science Academy.
The annual public data does not offer a complete picture of what legal services were received in 2020 — they only reflect what checks were cut to those agencies and vendors during the calendar year.