What Kind of Lawyer Handles Lawsuits against Schools?

By Courtney Ryan

As in any legal matter, the type of lawyer involved in a lawsuit against a school district depends upon the type of the lawsuit and the scope of the matter. Particularly with large or overly complex cases, more than one attorney representing different areas of legal expertise may be retained.

Plaintiff's Attorney

Any lawsuits brought against a school district by a third party (most commonly a student or a parent) will be litigated by a plaintiff's attorney. Such a case could be anything from a slip-and-fall case to a violation by the school district of local, state, or federal statutes. The plaintiff's attorney will represent the third party against the school district in the lawsuit.

Attorney for Union

Lawsuits between a school district and its employees typically fall under collective bargaining agreements and so will be handled by an attorney working for the teacher's union. In addition, union attorneys are frequently used in the course of negotiating a collective bargaining agreement. When the union and the school district are unable to reach agreement through negotiation or arbitration, the agreement occasionally proceeds to the courts, where a union attorney will represent the district's employees.

Law Firm

A law firm is generally retained to defend a school district against a lawsuit. A law firm holds the advantage of having many attorneys to draw on for expertise. For instance, some law firms have attorneys that specialize in education law and so are well practiced in defending school districts. In some lawsuits, law firms will also provide attorneys with litigation expertise to assist in court, especially in large complex cases like class action suits.

School District Counsel

Occasionally a school district will retain an individual attorney who serves in a legal capacity for a school district. The school district will pay for the legal services directly without going through a law firm. Counsel hired by the district usually handle smaller lawsuits involving simpler laws, such as open records requests or procedural questions for school board meetings. However, these attorneys may also advise on more complex lawsuits, typically with the assistance of a legal firm.

About the Author

Based in Wisconsin, Courtney Ryan has been writing since 2005. She has been published in "The Motley" literary magazine and has provided private research for various businesses and organizations. With a background in education and economics, Ryan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Spring Hill College and a Master of Arts in the social sciences from the University of Chicago.