The first director of the Cumberland County’s newly formed Department of Law will be paid $125,000 a year for his services as the county’s full-time legal counsel.

The Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders on Tuesday voted 7-0 to not only create the department, but also to name Theodore Baker as its first director.

The authorizing legislation contained no salary figure for Baker, whose term will run from Dec. 16 through Dec. 15, 2015.

However, Baker’s salary will be $125,000, Freeholder Director Carl Kirstein said. The figure was reached after negotiations between the county and Baker, he said.

Baker will now go about forming his staff.

Kirstein said it is likely that Baker will hire a paralegal to help with office duties. Baker may hire an additional attorney if the department’s work load “calls for it,” he said.

Baker, a Pittsgrove Township, Salem County, resident who is a partner in the Bridgeton law firm of Lummis, Krell & Baker, could not be reached for comment.

Shortly after taking control of the freeholder board during the November 2011 general election, Republicans authorized a series of committees to look at various cost-saving measures that could help the county reduce costs. One of those committees suggested creating a full-time legal department.

Republican and Democratic freeholders eventually agreed to further study that possibility and figure out how much taxpayer money could be saved.

The county spends $900,000 annually on legal costs. County official said they think that figure could be reduced by about $200,000 by handling more legal work in-house instead of farming out the work to various law firms.

Kirstein said some of the county’s legal business may still be awarded to outside law firms. That could involve issues that require special areas of legal expertise or a “long trial type of case,” he said.

The freeholder board would have to approve the use of outside law firms, Kirstein said.

Baker will replace Brendan Kavanagh, the county’s legal counsel, whose three-year term expires next month.

Contact Thomas Barlas:

609-226-9197