Our Premier Approach to Student Defense

The Academic Environment. Colleges and universities are unique institutions. Their academic missions, goals, and culture differ markedly from businesses, professions, nonprofit and government agents, and other organizations. Colleges and universities face a thicket of federal, state, and local regulations. But their professors and instructors also retain substantial academic freedom to shape and implement their educational programs. College and university administrative structures can thus have both a high level of sophistication and a high level of flexibility and informality. College and university employees are also a different breed of professional, generally with high job security, skill, and experience, low public accountability, and substantial discretion. Dealing with professors, department chairs, deans, directors, administrative staff, provosts, vice presidents of student affairs, disciplinary and performance committees, and academic attorneys in a school's office of general counsel is just different from dealing with individuals outside the academic setting. The attorney advocate who hopes to deal effectively with those academic officials when defending an accused student had better know those differences.

An Academic Administrative Approach. Over the course of many years and based on successful outcomes in hundreds of nationwide cases, national academic administrative attorney Joseph Lento and the academic administrative team at the Lento Law Firm have developed a preeminent approach to student misconduct defense. The Lento Law Firm approach accounts for the unique nature of the academic community. Academic administrators work in a non-adversarial environment. Academic administrative culture is generally highly collegial, focused as it must be on student learning and development. The Lento Law Firm approach builds on, rather than confronts and contradicts, that collegial, growth-oriented academic culture. Attorney Lento is masterful at helping college and university disciplinary officials focus on creative resolutions that produce win-win outcomes, preserving the accused student's institutional reputation and relationships so that the student can complete the valuable education.

Why Saber Rattling Doesn't Generally Work. Attorneys can be saber rattlers. Zealous advocacy is, for instance, the calling card of many criminal defense attorneys, for a good reason in that adversarial judicial context. Defendants in criminal cases need aggressive defense attorneys who will challenge, confront, and if necessary, embarrass misguided prosecutors into dismissing charges. But saber rattling won't generally work against academic administrators who have high job security and expertise and low public accountability, not to mention substantial institutional trust and resources. Academic disciplinary officials don't generally have an independent judge, as prosecutors face in a court system, waiting to evaluate and dismiss their misguided charges. Thus, when an accused student retains an outside attorney who generates conflict within the academic institution, academic disciplinary officials may simply shut down, diminishing communication and access to preserve the institution's learning environment.

Keeping the Lines Open. Early in a disciplinary proceeding, an accused student needs the opposite approach from saber-rattling. National academic administrative attorney Joseph Lento instead works sensitively, diplomatically, and diligently to keep communications lines open. An effective academic administrative attorney must first build trust with the disciplinary officials if the attorney's sterling national reputation hasn't already done so. Trust is important to an early favorable resolution of the misconduct charges. In many cases, disciplinary officials must come to accept that the accused student can persist safely, securely, and effectively in their educational program. The retained academic administrative attorney's quietly confident approach is one big step toward fostering that confidence among disciplinary officials in the accused student's own sensitivities and success. The attorney who demonstrates trustworthiness, sensitivity, and reliability can promote official confidence that the student will exhibit the same qualities.

Why Early Resolution Is the Goal. Early resolution is generally everyone's goal, not just the accused student's goal but also the goal of academic administrators and even of the complainant. The accused student needs to get on with the education. Misconduct charges distract and deplete the student from the time, attention, and effort that higher education requires. Yet misconduct charges also distract and deplete administrators from their other higher-priority duties. Colleges and universities generally draw their disciplinary officials from pools of faculty members, staff members, and administrators who have far more-substantial duties and only a nominal obligation relating to disciplinary proceedings. The administrator assigned to a disciplinary proceeding generally has one great hope that the proceeding ends swiftly with a minimum of time and effort. Complainants, too, may hope for a swift resolution, whether they are instructors who must report suspected cheating, staff members who must report suspected behavioral misconduct or students who report other misconduct. Everyone can generally benefit from early resolution if the resolution protects and promotes the interests of all involved.

Recognizing Interests. Recognizing the interests of each person involved in a disciplinary proceeding is another big factor in reaching favorable resolution. Attorneys who lack experience and insight into academic disciplinary proceedings may fail to see why accused students, accusers, investigators, administrators, and decision-makers behave as they do. They don't know the interests. In contrast, national academic administrative attorney Joseph Lento knows what each involved person must do, must not do, may do, and probably wants to do. With that knowledge, attorney Lento can often propose resolutions that meet all interests or go a lot farther in doing so than a contested outcome would do. Generating creative, achievable options that accomplish more for each interested person than a contested proceeding would accomplish is attorney Lento's key strategy to achieve an early favorable resolution. You don't get that skill from an attorney who lacks experience in academic administrative matters.

Resolution Forums. Another key is for the retained academic administrative attorney to know how to recognize, identify, or create resolution forums. When a lawyer litigates a case in court, the court generally imposes pretrial conferences, settlement conferences, mediations, and similar opportunities for the parties to meet to attempt to resolve the matter. Academic administrative misconduct proceedings can lack those same opportunities. The misconduct investigation results in a report recommending sanctions that the student must accept or go to a formal hearing. Yet national academic administrative attorney Joseph Lento knows how to cultivate academic administrative relationships that give him the opportunity to quietly advocate and negotiate for favorable resolutions. Sometimes, you must make your own opportunities. Attorney Lento knows how to do so in academic administrative proceedings.

Diligent Preparation. Favorably resolving college or university misconduct charges isn't simply a matter of talk. Favorable resolution also requires diligent preparation. National academic administrative attorney Joseph Lento knows how to gather all necessary information. Investigation in an academic setting differs from investigation in court matters, where the attorneys generally have subpoena and discovery powers. Investigation in academic proceedings more often requires private means rather than procedural powers. Academic administrative proceedings also require that the accused student invoke and follow the process. Academic disciplinary officials often have the power to forgo procedures if the accused student waives them or fails to invoke them. Attorney Lento ensures that the college or university making the misconduct accusations follows its full disciplinary process. That strategy gives time to obtain exonerating and mitigating evidence and prepare defenses. If early resolution isn't possible, attorney Lento ensures that the process plays itself out to the accused student's best advantage.

The Formal Hearing. Misconduct charges that don't resolve favorably at early stages should proceed to a formal hearing if the accused student demands and preserves that right. Inexperienced attorneys who rattle sabers with the school early in the hopes of a negotiated resolution may fail to diligently prepare for the formal hearing. They may also not know how academic administrative hearings differ from court proceedings. Academic administrative hearings generally do not follow evidence rules or court procedures. But that informality doesn't mean that an academic hearing is a free-for-all. Complex and changing federal regulations govern Title IX misconduct hearings. Other laws and regulations may also guarantee certain hearing procedures. The school will also generally have at least some rules for hearings. And hearing officers will often follow academic customs for hearings. National academic administrative attorney Joseph Lento knows how academic hearings proceed. He also knows how to help the accused student take appropriate advantage of those hearings.

Presenting and Challenging Evidence. The actions that an academic administrative attorney can take at the formal hearing to help the student present and challenge evidence can depend on the type of charge, the school, and its specific rules. But no matter how much or little the rules allow the attorney to do at the hearing, the attorney has a substantial role to play in gathering, organizing, and preparing the hearing evidence and in helping the student present it. Due process generally requires schools to permit the accused student to present witnesses and evidence in defense and to cross-examine or otherwise question adverse witnesses. Those are trial lawyer-like skills. Having honed his professional teeth on criminal defense cases, national academic administrative attorney Joseph Lento has the trial skills. But he also knows how to help an accused student make an effective presentation. The right approach to a misconduct proceeding that does not resolve before the formal hearing? Speak softly while carrying a big stick.

Appeals. Accused students don't always get a fair shake at the formal hearing stage, especially when they lack skilled academic administrative attorney representation. Most colleges and universities in most disciplinary proceedings offer some form of appeal from an adverse decision imposing disciplinary sanctions. You probably have a second bite at the proverbial apple, even after you've lost your formal hearing and suffered sanctions. But the right approach to an appeal is more important than simply knowing that you have an appeal. And once again, the right approach is one that combines insight into the unique academic mission of student growth and development with the advocacy skills of an academic administrative appellate attorney. Appeals require obtaining the hearing record, analyzing the record for reversible error, drafting and filing a compelling appeal brief documenting that error, and ensuring that the brief establishes one or more of the grounds that the school's appeal rules recognize for reversal of sanctions. National academic administrative attorney Joseph Lento and his expert team at the Lento Law Firm have those appellate skills available for your appeal.

Alternative Special Relief. Attorney Lento has one last ace in the hole, in his preeminent approach to student college and university misconduct defense. This last measure is unique or unusual among attorneys practicing dispute resolution, not to mention academic administrative misconduct defense. Even when an accused student has exhausted all appeals, colleges and universities sometimes have alternative avenues for relief. Remember, colleges and universities have student education, growth, and development as their mission. They also generally have general counsel's offices, ombudsman's offices, or other similar units that review school actions to ensure their compliance with law, rule, and regulation. Attorney Lento's knowledge, skill, experience, and national reputation have often enabled him to reach out to attorneys or other high-level school officials with oversight responsibilities, to negotiate special relief from disciplinary proceedings. Don't give up until you have exhausted all avenues, including informal routes you might not have initially considered.

Litigation as a Last Resort. Litigation is generally the last resort in academic administrative matters for several reasons. Those reasons include the deference that courts often give to academic decisions, the cost and delay that litigation can entail, and the availability or unavailability of reliable legal theories. Yet when push comes to shove, when a school insists on being unreasonable, attorney Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm are more than willing to go to court to preserve and enforce the accused student's constitutional, statutory, regulatory, contractual, and other legal rights. Accused students often do have legal legs on which to stand to raise claims in court. And sometimes, those claims are the only way of obtaining due relief from false, unfair, unsupported, or exaggerated misconduct charges. Attorney Lento includes litigation in his arsenal as an appropriate last resort.

Retain a Premier Academic Administrative Attorney

Few attorneys devote their practices to academic administrative defense work. Even fewer attorneys have the special academic administrative skills, experience, and approach that effective and successful defense requires. The diplomatic yet assertive approach of national academic administrative attorney Joseph Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm yields results. Don't give up on your valuable education. Hundreds of students have preserved, pursued, and completed their education after retaining attorney Lento for an effective and successful misconduct defense. Call 888-535-3686 now or go online.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.

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