The High Price of Defense

U of I racks up legal fees

By Steve Rhodes
|  Tuesday, Aug 11, 2009  |  Updated 9:59 AM CDT
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The High Price of Defense

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It's not even clear how much U of I's lawyers are costing.

The University of Illinois has contracted with six - six! - outside law firms to help it get through its clout admissions scandal.

The help doesn't come cheap, either, the Sun-Times reports. And its price tag is likely to grow.

The university's own legal department has been overwhelmed by media requests for records, and coping with the state admissions review panel, among other issues.

At this point it is not clear how much money has gone out the door to lawyers..

"Exactly how much the outside legal help has cost the university cannot be determined from the 55 pages of documents turned over after a Sun-Times Freedom of Information Act request," the paper states

The Sun-Times was able to deduce some of the legal fees paid out so far, including a $10,112 invoice for 32 hours of work by one firm on a Tribune FOIA request, and a "security retainer" of $100,000 by another firm.

"The retainer was approved the same day it was submitted; a check to the firm was signed by board chairman Niranjan Shah -- who has since resigned because of his role in pushing candidates for admission to the school," the Sun-Times reports.

"How much of the retainer has been used was unclear from the documents, but the university agreed to pay the firm up to $715 an hour for the legal help."

University spokesman Tom Hardy defended the hiring of outside firms and assured the paper, ahem, that political considerations weren't taken into account in choosing which firms would get the school's business.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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