Welcome to the General Counsel's Office
The general counsel's office is responsible for handling designated legal matters for Austin ISD within the framework of the philosophy and objectives established by board policy, federal and state constitutional law and statutes, and standards of federal and state regulatory agencies, and in accordance with administrative regulations and procedures.
The attorneys within the general counsel's office provide legal advice and counsel to district and campus administrators with respect to matters pertaining to or implicating the district's interests.
The attorneys represent the district in matters in judicial or administrative proceedings, and work with outside counsel with respect to matters in which outside counsel have been assigned to provide services for the district. The attorneys do not represent individual administrators, and do not provide counsel to any district employee in the employee's individual capacity.
The general counsel's office is routinely involved in reviewing prospective contracts with vendors, processing responses to open records requests, assisting district administration in the parent-student and employee complaint process, and the training of administrative and other staff on matters of board policy and legal compliance generally. The attorneys also assist with special education and employment matters as well as general civil rights issues.
The general counsel's office is available by phone at 512-414-9813, and by facsimile at 512-414-9878. For quality assurance, calls may be recorded.
Frequently Asked Questions
The AISD General Counsel’s Office is the in-house law office for the District, providing legal services for and on behalf of the District under the auspices of the Superintendent. The General Counsel, who is a licensed attorney, reports directly to the Superintendent of Schools, and serves as a member of the Superintendent’s Executive Team. The General Counsel routinely provides advice, counsel, or representation to authorized District personnel as counsel to the District alone in no less than the following areas: employment law, including employment discrimination and Chapter 21 issues; business contract review; student rights and student discipline; Fair Labor Standards Act; Family Medical Leave Act; complex requests for information under the Public Information Act; procurement; First Amendment; special education and 504 matters; family law matters impacting campuses; responding to subpoenas for District records or testimony from District personnel relating to District business. The General Counsel also works with outside counsel assigned to particular cases or controversies. Please take notice that the General Counsel is not counsel for the AISD Board of Trustees. AISD has retained Board counsel through an outside law firm. Generally the outside law firm, not the General Counsel, sits with the Board during Board meetings and advises the Board regarding legal issues affecting the Board, Board meetings, and Open Meetings issues. The Board’s counsel and the General Counsel work together as needed to make sure District interests are aligned.
The Superintendent, members of the Superintendent’s Executive Team, Directors and Executive Directors, satellite departments, and campus principals or, if authorized, assistant principals.
Generally, no. The General Counsel is supported by paralegal staff, and the paralegals are trained to assist the General Counsel in a wide range of legal matters. None of the paralegals or legal assistants within the General Counsel’s office are licensed attorneys. As a matter of professional ethics and the Texas Penal Code, therefore, the paralegals and legal assistants must work under the supervision of a licensed attorney, i.e., the General Counsel, and may not provide independent legal advice, counsel or services. However, there may be instances when the paralegal has recently been advised on the specific subject matter by one of the attorneys and may have been authorized to share that specific information with the requestor.
In order to protect the integrity of the legal services provided to the District, all requests for legal services must be made by administrators authorized to request services from the General Counsel’s Office. Some questions can be handled quickly through a phone call, but other matters may require additional time, gathering of facts, research and documentation of same. Members of the Superintendent’s Executive Team, Executive Directors and Directors, and campus principals may contact the General Counsel directly by phone, email or appointment. Even so, all persons requesting legal services need to know that all requests for services will be screened for potential conflicts of interests and will be referred to at least one member of the legal support staff in order to log in and also obtain information needed to process the request for legal services. For most matters, the preferred method for contacting Legal is by phone to an Executive Assistant / Paralegal or email to the following email addresses:firstname.lastname@example.org
All authorized individuals who contact and obtain from the Legal Office any advice, direction and/or opinions should note: The legal advice is given to you in your professional capacity, not in your personal capacity. The “attorney-client privilege” and “attorney work product” confidentiality designations mean you are not authorized to disclose the substance of the communication without the express consent of the Superintendent or Board of Trustees. Conversations between an attorney and client are privileged. See Texas Rule of Evidence 503. The attorney-client communication privilege covers information between District counsel and authorized District representatives, and it generally includes information shared by the client with the attorney’s legal assistants as well. The purpose of the privilege is to encourage clients to share information freely with legal counsel. The privilege belongs to the client. For the Office of Legal Services, the client is the corporate entity Austin ISD, and the Office reports to the Superintendent as Chief Executive Office for AISD. Therefore, all attorney-client privileged communication is to be held as confidential unless it is expressly waived by the Superintendent or his designee or the Board of Trustees. “Work product” refers to ideas and strategic decisions in a case made by an attorney, client, or their agent. Such work product may include notes, memoranda or emails. Work product is also privileged, and the District does not permit is disclosure except as authorized. In short, what this generally means is (a) conversations between District administrators and Legal Services personnel are presumptively confidential, and (b) if you receive correspondence or communications from Legal relating to a case the Legal is working or in relation to services you have requested, the correspondence or communications are confidential and you are not authorized to discuss or release that information with others except the Superintendent or Board of Trustees.