The University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst) is a public research and land-grant university in Amherst, Massachusetts and the flagship of the University of Massachusetts system. With 6,397 faculty and staff members and more than 30,000 students, UMass Amherst is the largest public university in New England and is ranked among the top 30 public universities in the nation.

The university offers bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees in 90 undergraduate and 72 graduate areas of study. UMass Amherst is ranked 29th among the nation’s top public universities, moving up 11 spots in the past two years in the U.S. News & World Report annual college guide.

The Position

Position Description

The Director of Student Legal Services Office leads the legal and administrative operation of the Student Legal Services Office (SLSO). The director is legal counsel to and provides policy advocacy for the student governance bodies and student leaders on issues of concern to the student body; provides legal services to students and student groups; and develops and directs a community legal education program.

Under the general programmatic direction of the undergraduate and graduate student governance bodies and the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life, and reporting to the Dean of Students, the Director of Student Legal Services will:

  • direct the legal and administrative operation and support customer-focused, quality services of SLSO, including budget development and presentation and expenditure approval; hire, supervise, train, and evaluate the job performance of SLSO attorneys and staff;
  • develop and implement the mission, goals, and objectives of SLSO;
  • serve as legal counsel to SGA, GSS, their agencies, and Registered Student Organizations; provide advice, counseling, and training on a broad range of federal and state laws and Trustee policies; draft proposed Trustee policies, state statutes, and municipal ordinances and bylaws in areas reflecting student concerns; provide policy advocacy for purposes of promoting, opposing, or influencing legislation and/or actions of governmental officials on matters affecting the interests of students;
  • provide legal assistance to students, including legal advice and counseling, referral to outside legal counsel, legal document preparation, representation, mediation, litigation, policy advocacy, and lobbying; educate students on legal rights and obligations and the legal process;
  • direct and oversee affirmative legal action and education to obtain legal reform or other relief for issues common to large numbers of students;
  • develop and implement the community legal education program, including an internship program, newsletter, brochures, trainings, lectures, and workshops – each with a focus on a preventive-measure approach to promote students’ legal rights;
  • maintain current working knowledge of federal and state laws and regulations pertaining to the practice of law; participate in peer review and continuing legal education; exercise independent legal judgement in accordance with the MA Rules of Professional Conduct; and
  • with prior approval, may serve on directly relevant nation-wide and statewide policy advocacy committees, boards, and task forces; participate in Student Affairs and Campus Life staff meetings and committees; may serve on various University-wide policy committees, boards, and task forces.

Qualifications

A Juris Doctor degree from an accredited institution, membership in the Massachusetts Bar (or the ability to acquire reciprocal admission by the date of hire), and 5 years’ experience in the practice of law, including 2-3 years’ experience supervising attorneys and/or law students is required. Experience in and current knowledge of a few of the following areas of law: housing; consumer; labor/employment; civil rights; criminal; (college based) student conduct proceedings; and, Title IX. Preferred experience in family and/or immigration law. In addition, the following skills and experience will be expected of the new Director of Student Legal Services:

  • significant experience providing legal education and advice to student and community client constituencies;
  • effective written and oral communication skills, including considerable experience in public speaking and presenting to diverse communities;
  • must understand the responsibilities with respect to conflicts of interest and behave in ways consistent both with law and with University policy;
  • flexibility to work evenings and weekends and to adjust work assignments according to programmatic and divisional needs;
  • budgetary experience including forecasting, monitoring, and reporting; and
  • ability to promote excellent interpersonal relationships and to work collaboratively with diverse groups of students, staff, faculty, administrators, and community leaders.

Likely Opportunities, Priorities, and Challenges of the Position

The Student Legal Services Office is currently being led by interim leadership from within the law associate staff. The leaders of the undergraduate and graduate student governance bodies are eager and excited to usher in new, more permanent leadership to SLSO in order to meet student needs.

In transitioning to the University of Massachusetts Amherst the next director of the student legal services office will be expected to:

  • evaluate the current office structure in line with office mission and goals, student feedback, and divisional and institutional strategic planning objectives for efficiency and enhanced student engagement outcomes;
  • be accessible and available to student leaders and the diverse campus student population;
  • skillfully navigate leading an office that is funded by student fees, advised by the SLSO advisory committee, and housed within a dynamic student life unit, all with complex and varying objectives and expectations;
  • expertly communicate and build relationships across all constituency groups;
  • bring strong legal, managerial, and supervisory experience to a complex organization; and
  • appropriately diversify areas of legal expertise in order to address areas of community need.

History of the Position

The Legal Services Office was created in 1973 by the Student Government Association (SGA) and the Graduate Student Senate (GSS). The Massachusetts Legislature followed its creation with passage of legislation that specifically authorizes the UMass Trustees to establish and maintain a trust fund for student-supported legal services.

From 1975 to 1986, the staff of the Legal Services Office consisted of four attorneys, two full-time professional staff, legal assistant interns, and law clerks. The office provided a wide range of legal services, including representation in both civil and criminal courts and in cases against the University of Massachusetts. This included litigation against the University and its employees.

In 1986, the Board of Trustees rescinded the authority of the office to represent students against the University and in criminal cases. Then, in 1987, the Trustees abolished the litigation authority of the Legal Services Office entirely.

In 1993, as a result of lobbying efforts by student leaders, the Trustees voted to authorize limited litigation, except in cases against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or any of its agencies, subdivisions, or instrumentalities, including the University, any municipality, or any employees, officers, trustees, or agents of these entities who are acting in their official capacities. The program’s name then changed to the Student Legal Services Office. In 2000, the Trustees voted to extend limited litigation authority through 2010, which was extended by the Trustees in 2010 through 2020.

The long standing Student Legal Services Office director retired in late spring 2016 and a search commenced that resulted in a director who served for just under a year. Since spring of 2018, an interim leader has been providing leadership for the office.

Institution & Location

Institutional Background

The University of Massachusetts Amherst (otherwise known as UMass Amherst) is a public research and land-grant university in Amherst, Massachusetts, and the flagship of the University of Massachusetts system. With 6,397 faculty and staff members and more than 30,000 students, UMass Amherst is the largest public university in New England and is ranked among the top 30 public universities in the nation.

The University offers bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees in 90 undergraduate and 72 graduate areas of study. UMass Amherst is ranked 29th among the nation’s top public universities, moving up 11 spots in the past two years in U.S. News & World Report’s annual college guide.

Other recent accolades include:

  • Rated the 25th most efficient among top-rated national universities in a new U.S. News & World Report ranking category.
  • For a ninth consecutive year, UMass Amherst is among the 100 Best Values in Public Colleges compiled by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.
  • The Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the highest ranking public undergraduate business school in the Northeast, according to Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2016 Undergraduate Business School Rankings. Climbing three places since the 2014 ranking, Isenberg now ranks 11th among public undergraduate business school programs in the United States.
  • Money magazine ranks UMass Amherst among the nation’s best colleges based on “most bang for the tuition buck.”
  • The University is ranked among the top 200 programs worldwide in 21 academic disciplines, according to the 2017 QS World University Subject Ratings.
  • UMass Amherst is ranked among the top research universities nationwide for its commitment to leadership in sustainability by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

UMass Amherst faculty and staff are top performers in terms of the number of awards and recognitions they receive. UMass Amherst, the Commonwealth’s flagship public research university, is one of the nation’s top universities for research as measured by national and international rankings, academic citations, and research funding. The campus spends more than $200 million on research each year, demonstrating its contribution to the nation’s position as a technological and economic leader. The University has consistently been named a top producer of Fulbright award winners. Additionally, UMass Amherst engages the community with 359 programs, partnering with 499 organizations in 21 states, and involving 86 different campus units. Other notable accomplishments include recognition as a leader in social justice and being one of the first campuses to announce a policy to divest investments in South Africa. UMass Amherst is ranked among the top 10 research universities nationwide for its commitment to leadership in sustainability. The University is also distinguished by its W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies; the Stonewall Center, one of the longest-established centers supporting the LGBTQIA community (over 40 years); the Center for Women and Community, supporting victims of violence; and the Office of Disability Services, supporting students with disabilities in maximizing the quality of their university experience.

For a more comprehensive introduction to the University, visit http://www.umass.edu/gateway/about .

Institutional Leadership

Kumble R. Subbaswamy, PhD, Chancellor

Kumble R. Subbaswamy became the 30th leader of UMass Amherst on July 1, 2012. He has emerged as a popular and well-regarded chancellor for his pursuit of academic excellence, promotion of research and outreach, and initiatives aimed at addressing campus climate, diversity, and culture.

Subbaswamy has overseen the opening of new cutting-edge academic and athletic facilities, including Commonwealth Honors College Residential Community, the Integrative Learning Center, the Life Science Laboratories, and the Football Performance Center. He has made sustainability a campus priority, and he is focused on strengthening community relationships, supporting area communities, and increasing access to the University’s rich academic and research resources.

Championing an open and transparent leadership style, Subbaswamy enacted a comprehensive campus-wide strategic planning process to continue to build on the successes of UMass Amherst in the coming years. As part of fortifying the future, Subbaswamy has played a key role in UMass Rising, a $300 million fundraising campaign and the largest in campus history.

Subbaswamy has instituted plans to improve the UMass educational experience by introducing more opportunities for undergraduate research experiences and integrative and team-based learning and to increase enrollment of students from diverse backgrounds.

Before coming to UMass Amherst, Subbaswamy served since 2006 as provost at the University of Kentucky. A physicist, he joined Kentucky’s faculty in 1978 after serving as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, Irvine. During his first 18 years at the University of Kentucky, he served as associate dean of arts and sciences and as chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

In other administrative positions, Subbaswamy was dean of the college of arts and sciences at the University of Miami from 1997 to 2000. Then he left to become dean of arts and sciences at Indiana University Bloomington, serving until 2006, when he moved to Kentucky. He holds a bachelor of science from Bangalore University, a master of physics from Delhi University, and a PhD in physics from Indiana University. He was elected a fellow of the American Physical Society in 1989. His primary research area is the optical properties of novel materials and nonlinear excitations. He has published more than 60 articles and co-authored a book on the local density theory of polarizability.

Benefits Overview

UMass Amherst offers a comprehensive benefits package, including:

To learn more about UMass Amherst’s benefits, please visit http://www.umass.edu/humres/benefits-0.

Application & Nomination

Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled. To apply for this position please click on the Apply button, complete the brief application process, and upload your resume and position-specific cover letter. Nominations for this position may be emailed to Heather J. Larabee at hjl@spelmanjohnson.com. Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895.

Visit the University of Massachusetts Amherst website at www.umass.edu/

The University is committed to active recruitment of a diverse faculty, staff, and student body. The University of Massachusetts Amherst is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer of women, minorities, protected veterans, and individuals with disabilities and encourages applications from these and other protected group members.