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Legislative Auditors Give Attorney General’s Office Mostly High Marks for Cost, Client Services

JLARC
(Photo: Whittney Evans)

State agencies who have used legal services with Virginia’s Office of the Attorney General say they were satisfied, according to a new state audit. The report also found the office didn’t cost didn’t cost taxpayers much either.

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) found the Attorney General’s office provides high-quality legal services, and costs substantially less than the private sector. The report also found the office effectively investigates Medicaid fraud. 

Legislative Analyst Mark Gribbin said they gauged client satisfaction with a survey. 

“We received responses from 90 different clients, including most state agencies, public universities and colleges,” he said. “The survey had an exceptionally high 92% response rate, which goes to show how important legal services are to clients.”

The report found 72% of cases litigated by attorneys in the office were ruled in the client’s favor. The rest were either ruled partially in the client’s favor or settled.

Not all of the findings were positive.

The report also reveals the office sometimes takes too long to provide clients with legal advice because it is understaffed. Some clients reported waiting weeks or months for advice.

“OAG charges less than private legal counsel for its services. However, OAG is not fully billing for the services it provides,” Gribbin said. “It underbilled by a net of $2.7 million in fiscal ‘19.”

The commission recommended the office update it’s billing policies and consider hiring a new position to help navigate client concerns.

Attorney General Mark Herring said in a letter responding to the audit that his office is in the process of implementing new systems and policies for timekeeping and better management of billing.

Herring said the office had come a long way since he assumed office five years ago.

“In 2014, the Office of Attorney General had no document management system, no case management system, no outside counsel management system and the issuance and collection of legal billings was frighteningly chaotic,” Herring said.

 

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Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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