Office of the General Counsel

Gerard T. Leone, Jr. | General Counsel
gleone@umassp.edu

Alexandra Furth | Deputy General Counsel
afurth@umassp.edu

Peter Michelson | Deputy General Counsel
pmichelson@umassp.edu

Overview

The Office of the General Counsel ("OGC") is the University’s in-house law firm. Attorneys provide legal advice, counsel, services and assistance to the Board of Trustees, the President, Vice Presidents, Chancellors, and other University officers and employees acting on the University's behalf. We strive to earn the respect of those we serve by responding in a timely manner with practical and focused advice, and to develop strong problem-solving and decision-making relationships with our clients. The OGC directly supports the University’s mission as a key partner in the University’s efforts to achieve excellence.

Attorneys work with departments on each campus and the central office giving us a true system-wide view of the University’s activities, programs, facilities, faculty, staff, and students. The office provides advice on the wide range of issues related to the University’s multiple roles: as a higher education institution, a state agency, a non-profit, a business developer, a major employer, and an international enterprise. Legal assistance is needed for all the services which directly support the University’s core mission, including research, property, procurement, personnel, construction, transportation, public safety, health services, athletics, performing arts, and student life.

The University has had the benefit of an in-house legal office for over 40 years. This history gives the OGC valuable institutional knowledge. The office has grown with the University, adding legal staff and competencies to meet the University’s needs. The OGC must assure that it provides services in those areas that pose most risk to the University, as well as those areas necessary for daily operations, so we continually assess how to best meet these obligations. We use an electronic matter management system to determine the number and type of matters we handle, by campus and business area, so that we can determine where our resources should be utilized most efficiently and effectively. We also track the number of claims and suits filed against the University by type and potential liability so we can assess those that may be appropriate for early settlement to avoid significant costs or damages.

It is sometimes necessary to retain outside counsel for specialized matters and the office seeks firms that offer the best value for this work. We are always striving to reduce the cost of outside counsel by reducing the number of firms on retainer, by hiring attorneys for the office who can take on the work currently being done by outside firms, and making cost efficient and effective decisions that focus on significantly reducing and adding value to the University’ s legal spend.

We develop strong working relationships with all departments within the UMSO, so we are aware of current issues and projects that we can lend value to.

Higher education legal practice is challenging and rewarding; attorneys in the office are proud to represent the University and serve the public.

Mission Statement

  • Provide excellent legal services in support of the University's mission
  • Provide timely, practical, and responsive legal advice
  • Support the University’s efficiency and effectiveness efforts
  • Promote collaborative and constructive problem-solving and decision-making
  • Foster a culture of compliance and risk management
  • Promote ethical and equitable conduct 

Major Practice Areas/Competencies

  • Labor and employment
  • Contracts, procurement, public bidding law
  • Real property/leases/licenses
  • Litigation and agency claims
  • State/public law
  • Intellectual property/business development/commercial ventures
  • Immigration
  • Higher education law
  • Constitutional law/civil rights/first amendment
  • Governance/non-profit law
  • Compliance/risk management

Key Responsibilities

  • Advise the Board of Trustees, University President, Board Secretary, Chancellors and senior administration on governance/policy/legislative proposals
  • Review policies and protocols for the Board and campuses
  • Review contracts, leases, licenses, and other business agreements
  • Support the research and technology transfer functions for the University
  • Advise and assist student affairs, housing, and public safety
  • Advise human resources and equal opportunity offices on employment, discrimination, and diversity matters
  • Represent management in grievances, arbitrations, and labor board matters
  • Represent the University and its employees before state and federal courts and administrative agencies
  • Retain and oversee outside counsel in litigation, labor, intellectual property and international issues
  • Train managers and administrators on compliance with state and federal laws and regulations