FAQs

Q?

What should the client spend?

A.

Most city attorneys can provide a list of things that the client needs to fix, change, improve or stop doing. Codes of ordinances and personnel manuals are often out of date. However, until a person with authority to do so directs him or her to fix a problem, the city attorney has no authority to run up the city's legal bills simply because its a good idea.

Q?

Who is the client?

A.

The attorney's client is the city, which is principally a majority of the governing body. However, he or she must also meet the city's needs by working with and sometimes following the direction of city managers, administrators, secretaries and others. Any city official or employee dealing with the city attorney must understand that it is the city-not the individual official or employee-whom the attorney represents.

Q?

Open Government

A.

Texas open government laws are very stringent, and the city attorney must acts as watchdog to prevent violations by city officials. His or her interruption of a conversation or advise that two or more council members should not be talking about a matter not on the agenda or outside of a public meeting is meant as protection, not the attorney's attempt to interfere with an official's conduct of business.

Q?

The law is unclear

A.

Every lawyer wants to be "one-handed," never having to say "on the one hand this; on the other hand that," but there is not a single black-and-white answer to every question. When the law is unclear, the lawyer has an obligation to advise what the options are and what the risk of each option is, and then to defend the decisions made by the governing body and policy-makers.

Q?

What is ethics?

A.

All attorneys are bound to follow the Rules of Professional Conduct and may sometimes be prohibited from revealing information or pursuing a course of action as a result. The attorney/client privilege is a privilege possessed by the city as the client. It allows the city to decide whether to withhold or release the attorney's legal advise and requires the attorney to have the city's permission or waiver of the privilege before he or she discloses the advise to a third party.