How To...

Request Legal Advice

So our attorneys may efficiently provide you with assistance, please provide us with an email or memo outlining the issue(s) you would like us to address.  In your request, please indicate any time constraints to assist us in setting priorities.  The more facts we know, the earlier and the more effectively we are able to assist you.  You should also provide us with any relevant documents by email, as we scan and electronically store most documents we receive.

Respond to Service of a Summons or Complaint

When a University officer or employee is served with a summons and complaint, a subpoena, a motion for a temporary restraining order or for a preliminary injunction, or any other document that appears to commence litigation against the University or an employee, prompt action is required to ensure that the interests of the University and its employees are protected.

As soon as you receive such documents, you should contact Cheryl Owens, our litigation paralegal, cowens@umassp.edu, or (774) 455-7300. 

If you on the Amherst campus, you should contact legal assistant Laura Dziuban, ldziuban@umass.edu or (413) 545-2204.

Respond to Chapter 258 Claims Letters

The Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, Chapter 258 of the Massachusetts General Laws, governs many claims against the Commonwealth, including the University.

Personal injury or property damage claims, including auto accident claims, are managed in conjunction with the University’s Risk Management office. The Risk Management office has an established process for claim investigations on each campus.  If you receive a letter asking for damages due to loss or injury, or stating that the letter is sent in accordance with Chapter 258 of the General Laws, it should be forwarded to Matt Wamback, Senior Insurance Analyst, mwamback@umassp.edu, or (774) 455-7588. 

 

The University carries general liability insurance which covers many of these claims.   Information about insurance policies, claims management, releases, and settlements can be found on the Treasurer's Office General Insurance Information page.

After investigation, the Risk Management office will confer with our office to determine the potential liability for the University.   Decisions on whether to settle claims will be made in consultation with each campus; settlements over $2500 require approval by the Attorney General’s office and will then be paid by the state Comptroller.

Request Use of Outside Counsel

If a campus has a matter that may require the services of outside legal counsel, it should contact the General Counsel, specifying the issues involved, the reasons why outside legal advice is being sought, the department or unit to be billed for such advice, and the proposed budget.  Normally, the department or unit requesting or directly benefitting from the advice is responsible for providing funds for payment.  The General Counsel will determine whether the matter may be handled more effectively by in-house attorneys or by outside counsel.  The University has current retainer agreements with a number of law firms, and one of these firms may be available to handle your new matter.

If the General Counsel determines that additional outside counsel should be retained, the Office will generally solicit proposals from several appropriate firms (with campus input), and then negotiate rates to achieve the best value.  We will then prepare an engagement letter which specifies the terms upon which such counsel will be retained, including the fee arrangement, the nature of the specific assignment, and the outside counsel’s reporting requirement to the General Counsel.  This process can often be completed quite quickly.

Billings by outside counsel are to be sent directly to the General Counsel electronically, to the following dedicated email address: gcounsel@umassp.edu.  Upon approval, the General Counsel will forward them to the campus for payment.

Please be aware that outside legal advice is expensive and that the Board of Trustees requires all outside counsel to be selected, approved and supervised by the General Counsel.  This is to ensure consistent, competent advice and to control costs.  We are very careful about authorizing the use of outside counsel and monitoring monthly bills in order to meet these goals.  The University will not pay outside attorneys unless they are engaged through this process.

Respond to Outside Attorneys

When you receive calls from private attorneys representing their clients in connection with matters involving the University, generally the easiest and best response for you is to say that the University is represented by the General Counsel’s Office.  You should then provide them with the phone number for our office.  Once a private attorney knows that the University is represented by counsel, he or she will deal directly with a University attorney.  We will be in touch with you or whomever at the University can help us properly respond to the issues that may arise.  If you know (or have a good idea) of what the attorney is calling about, we would appreciate a call from you immediately so we can be better informed when we receive the attorney’s call.

If a private attorney shows up unexpectedly at a meeting, you may wish to inform him or her that you were not expecting an attorney to be present, and that you wish to defer the meeting until you have had the opportunity to talk with the General Counsel’s Office.

If you receive a letter from a private attorney, forward the letter to us along with any background information on the issue it raises.  We will be in touch with you and will draft or work with you in drafting an appropriate response.  (For tort or negligence claims and Chapter 258 claims, visit the Treasurer’s Office General Insurance Information page.

The general rule is that an employee performing services for the University will be represented by counsel, and our office is available to respond to any communication from other attorneys.