The New York State task force on minority- and women-owned business enterprises moves its sights from underwriting to legal services with a series of panel discussions to be held tomorrow in Manhattan.

The task force will consider ways to boost participation of minority- and women-owned legal firms at state agencies and public authorities. It will also look at ways to support minority and women attorneys at majority firms.

All types of legal services used by agencies and authorities will be considered, including bond counsel and underwriters' counsel services.

Task force chairman Paul Williams Jr., who is also the executive director of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, said it will examine best practices for both in-house and outside legal services and will consider whether to change the length of terms of service for bond counsel firms that are selected through a request for proposals process. Currently, the length of such a term at DASNY is five years, but the task force will consider whether two years might be a better length.

The task force's recommendations for underwriting practices and the creation of template for RFPs were finalized late last year and have since been adopted by the five issuers of state personal income tax bonds: DASNY; the New York State Environmental Facilities Corp.; the Empire State Development Corp.; the New York State Thruway Authority; and the New York State Housing Finance Agency.

Asked whether the task force's work could eventually produce a spate of RFPs being issued for bond counsel firms as has happened for underwriters for PIT bond issuers - all have either issued new RFPs or intend to this year - Williams said it was a possibility.

The task force was created in June by executive order by Gov. David Paterson.

The final panel will feature attorneys from all five PIT issuers and the state comptroller's office to talk about procurement practices. The discussion will be held at the New York City Bar Association.

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