Clear lines of communication with your school attorney will go a long way towards keeping the school district out of harm’s way. With a little bit of courtesy and a few ground rules, school official can enjoy a strong relationship with their attorney to the benefit of the district and its stakeholders.
Let’s examine the most common pitfalls that can inhibit – or sour – the relationship between the board and its counsel.
First, a mea culpa on behalf of the school attorney community: Often, legalese is our lingua franca, and many of us pepper our writing with complex words and Latin phrases. Oops. We’re doing it again, aren’t we?
Legal advice is not valuable if it is not understood. It’s important for clients to appreciate that lawyers are trained, in large part, to communicate with other lawyers and judges. Sometimes we need our clients to let us know when we need to rephrase things in order to be clear.
Tip: When you hear your attorney use jargon, ask for clarification. If the analysis seems unnecessarily complex, ask your attorney to break down the information into the key the things you need to know: What are the issues? What are the (known) facts? What are the board’s options? What is the likelihood of success for each option? Also, ask your attorneys if they can (whenever possible) keep opinion letters to two or three pages.