ARENA PROJECT Board considers choice for law firm

The law firm does not have a cap on how much it can bill the arena board for legal fees during its one-year contract.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The board overseeing the proposed downtown arena project will consider a recommendation from its finance committee to pay a law firm $250 an hour to serve as its legal counsel.
The board's finance committee negotiated Monday with officials from Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & amp; Aronoff, a firm with offices in Cleveland and Columbus, and worked out the particulars of the one-year agreement.
The arena board will consider the recommendation at its meeting at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
There is no cap on Benesch's fees under the proposal, but the law firm will report its billing hours to the board every two weeks, said Leonard Schiavone, arena board chairman.
When asked how much the board expects to pay for legal fees, Schiavone said he did not know, but it would be a "significantly small portion" of the $25.8 million federal grant that is being used to fund the arena.
Selection: The Benesch firm was chosen from four agencies that submitted proposals to serve as the arena board's legal counsel. The $250-an-hour fee is the highest among the four proposals, Schiavone said.
But the Benesch firm also had the "highest level of experience and expertise" among the four proposals, Schiavone said. The firm has more than 120 attorneys and one of its areas of expertise is sports management.
The arena board will keep the law firm busy, Schiavone said, with contract negotiations, document preparation as well as conducting a review of what the arena board already has done.
The contract permits the arena board or the Benesch firm to terminate the agreement at any time, Schiavone said.

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