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Green to exit private practice County role, for in-house senior legal counsel post

Posted March 30, 2016

Marshall Green, long time solicitor for the County of Simcoe via his private practice at HGR Graham Partners LLP, announced this morning "effective April 1st, and after 41 years with this firm, I have decided to take up a new challenge, and will join with Zarah Walpole to establish an in-house legal services department at the County of Simcoe."

Mr. Green's announcement was dispatched through email by the Simcoe Law Library list-serv. Ms. Walpole joins the County after serving as a member of the City of Barrie's Legal Services department. This represents the first time the County will employ full-time in-house legal counsel.

"I will become Senior Legal Counsel," according to Mr. Green's announcement. "I want to take the opportunity to thank all of the opposing and co-counsel, judges, court staff and others who have made my years in the private sector so rewarding and enjoyable. I expect to see many of you at Ontario Municipal Board hearings, and occasionally in court."

Mr. Green's recent success on the upper tier's behalf was his co-defence (along with now retired Ian Rowe on behalf of Tecumseth Estates) of the County's decision to issue a special permit to clear more than 30 acres of woodlot in Beeton. This included securing a cost award of $5,000 from Aware-Simcoe.

Simcoe County CAO Mark Aitken said this afternoon via email that Ms.Walpole will be Director of Legal Services.

"We have been looking at our legal costs for some time, and County Council at the end of last Council term and again at the beginning of this term considered a business case for creating an in-house legal department," wrote Mr. Aitken. "Basically, our legal costs fluctuate annually depending on our requirements, but we have been trending upwards with particular increases in contract, procurement, municipal and property law matters in particular (the overall budget for legal costs is in the range of $1.6 to $1.8 million annually). We determined that we could create a legal department to address these increasing needs, while improving overall legal ownership, accountability and services while maintaining and more likely reducing our overall budget spend. We will still need to secure specialized external legal services from time to time for such things as labour law or specialized law (all included in the overall budget). Council provided staff direction to proceed, and we will be reporting back to County Council annually on the matter for a period of time."

Mr. Aitken said Ms. Walpole was hired through the public recruitment processes and will be a full time employee. She will be tasked with hiring a Law Clerk and a Legal Assistant as well to round out requirements for her new department.

The County's 2016 budget package anticipated Salaries and benefits to be $355K. This includes three FTE's consisting of a Director of Legal Services, a Law Clerk and an Administrative Assistant. Administration costs are expected to be $62K. This will cover general administration, training and department costs of $22K as well as $25K for external legal expenses and $15K for consulting fees to facilitate the transition to in-house legal services. It's not clear from the package and at this post, what Mr. Green's compensation will be.

"Through the process, we recognized the need to transfer our corporate legal knowledge and files from HGR Graham partners to our new legal team, specifically from the experiences and history of Marshall Green (the County's long time legal counsel who was basically on retainer with negotiated reduced fees)," explained Mr. Aitken. "Through those discussions, it became apparent that we could achieve this knowledge transfer more effectively, and undertake other cost savings through direct service delivery for things such as representation at hearings and other solicitor work, by entering into a direct termed contract with Marshall. County Council favourably approved the arrangement. Again, the new department, this contract arrangement with Marshall, and any incidental external legal requirements are still projected to be at and likely below our current realized annual legal costs as well as providing other benefits to the County."

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by Tony Veltri
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