The Massachusetts Development Finance Agency is seeking qualifications from law firms to update its panel of authorized bond counsel.

The authority, which serves as a conduit issuer, currently has a list of 12 law firms that its clients can choose from when selecting bond counsel for borrowing transactions. Steve Chilton, MassDevelopment's senior vice president of investment banking, said the size of the new panel could be 12 or so again, depending on the number of responses the agency receives and of those, how many qualify. MassDevelopment anticipates using the new panel for the next three years.

"I'd say we try to keep it at a manageable level, but give a fair amount of flexibility, including different types of experience and also, because we work throughout the state, to be able to have firms not just in Boston but throughout the state," Chilton said.

Responses are due by March 21 and the authority will hold oral interviews the first week of April. MassDevelopment staff will then offer their recommendations to the authority's board of directors for its approval at the board's April 10 meeting.

The request for qualifications asks for details on a firm's experience working on bond sales similar to those that MassDevelopment issues, refunding transactions the firm worked on over the past five years, and experience with variable-rate financing, credit enhancements, derivatives, and multi-modal bonds, among other qualifications.

Chilton said the agency last updated its approved bond counsel list in 2003 or 2004.

"It's been a number of years since we've done one and it's always our intention, periodically, to review it," he said.

MassDevelopment sells industrial development, housing, and environmental bonds on behalf of businesses, schools, and nonprofits. For the first half of fiscal 2008, which began July 1, the authority sold $1.44 billion of debt, with officials expecting to surpass fiscal 2007's total volume of $1.5 billion of bond sold.

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