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Patricia A. Hennessy

Partner

Pat brings over twenty years of experience to educational institutions and corporate America. Known for her ability to get to the heart of the matter quickly and thoroughly, clients praise her tremendous intellect and problem-solving skills. She anticipates problems and counsels her clients on how to avoid those problems before they happen.

Acknowledged as one of the top education lawyers in the country, Pat represents and advises schools from the application drafting process through startup and ongoing operations, including:

  • School code and administrative code compliance
  • Commercial and employment litigation
  • Special education matters
  • Student discipline
  • Operations (including drafting operational policies and policy manuals)
  • Contracts
  • Accreditation and licensure of administrative and teaching staff
  • Federal legal issues (ESSA/ESEA, IDEA, Section 504, USDOE regulations, Office of Civil Right investigations, anti-discrimination and constitutional issues)
  • Training for school administrators, school boards, teachers, and staff
  • Routinely advise private school administrators on school code compliance, federal statues, school safety, and other matters.
  • Presenting at seminars for charter school related organizations, private school associations, and continuing legal education providers

Pat is a charter schools advocate and activist, serving on the National Litigation Council for the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools and as a long-term member of the Alliance of Public Charter School Attorneys. As part of her private school and boarding school practice, she is a board member of the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools. On a state level, Pat is active in legislative affairs on issues related to Pennsylvania School Code, education reform, school choice, and other related legislative areas that impact schools.

Pat also consults with life sciences startup companies on startup operations, business development, and regulatory compliance.

Earlier in her career, Pat served as assistant general counsel of Synthes (USA), an international manufacturer and distributor of orthopedic implant devices, where she was the primary attorney for Synthes Spine Company, L.P., overseeing the highly successful in-house claims process and defense of product liability lawsuits throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe.  She coordinated the company’s successful national defense of the In Re: Orthopedic Bone Screw Litigation – MDL 1014. The company’s success resulted from a two-pronged approach by ensuring the denial of the class certification and then the systematic defeat of the resulting stand-alone claims by motions for summary judgment or defense verdict.

Additionally, Pat worked as one of the lead attorneys for a South Jersey manufacturing defendant, where she successfully defeated class certification of a high-profile mass tort class action litigation involving personal injury and medical monitoring claims for the residents of the City of Camden who consumed the city’s drinking water over a 25-year period. After the defeat of the class certification, Pat was an integral part of a defense team that defeated the standalone claims via motion for summary judgment.

Education

  • Temple University School of Law (J.D.)
  • Temple University (B.A., cum laude)

Bar Admissions

  • Pennsylvania
  • New Jersey
  • Maryland
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern Pennsylvania
  • Represented KIPP Philadelphia Charter Schools and Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School in a win that provided $528,000 in funds to the charter schools. The Commonwealth Court found that the Pennsylvania Department of Education violated the Charter School Law by not redirecting money from the district that the legislature intended to be used to educate students at KIPP and Richard Allen.
  • Successfully represented Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School in protracted litigation against the School District of Philadelphia and School Reform Commission, prevailing at the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, where the court agreed that the School District does not have the power to impose enrollment caps on charter schools or deny funding where enrollment caps are exceeded, except where a charter school has expressly agreed to the enrollment cap. This decision was upheld by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
  • Retained by KIPP Philadelphia, assisting them in the award of four new charter schools within two years.
  • Successfully represented Reach Cyber Charter School in their 2016 charter application proceedings before the Pennsylvania Department of Education, resulting in the first cyber charter awarded in Pennsylvania since 2011.
  • Best Lawyers in America in Commercial Litigation (2022)
  • “Recent Third Circuit Ruling May Increase School Liability,”The Legal Intelligencer, October 21, 2015

Pat is a frequent speaker and presenter regionally and nationally on charter schools and education law.

  • “Coming to America: The EL Experience in the 21st Century,” Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools (November 2020)
  • “COVID-19: Legality of Home Schooling and Learning Pods,” The Legal Lowdown Podcast (November 2020) (listen to the episode here)
  • “How To Make the ‘Worst Charter School in the Country’ … Better?” Philadelphia Education Fund (January 2020)
  • “From Sandusky to Solebury:  Lessons from Pennsylvania on Educator Misconduct,” Alliance of Public Charter School Attorneys (APCSA) Convention (November 2019)
  • “The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions: Latent Legal Threats,” National Alliance of Public Charter Schools National Conference (June 2018)
  • “The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea:  A Mindset of Ethical Decision Making for Administrators,” National Alliance of Public Charter Schools National Conference (June 2018)
  • “Chartering in Philadelphia or the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools Meeting for Philadelphia Charter School Leaders (November 2017)
  • “From Sandusky to Solebury: Lessons from Pennsylvania on Educator Misconduct,” Education Law Association 63rd Annual Conference (November 2017)
  • “How Schools Can Fortify Their Deflector Shields: Protecting Data Privacy of K-12 Students and Schools,” Education Law Association 63rd Annual Conference (November 2017)
  • “The Care and Feeding of Your Board Policy Binder,” National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, Panelist, Annual National Conference (June 2017)
  • “Educator Misconduct: How to Handle Claims Against Educators, from Allegation Through Litigation,” Education Law Association 62nd Annual Conference (November 2016)
  • “Understanding the School Landscape in a Transgender World” and “Educator Misconduct: How to Handle Claims Against Educators, from Allegation Through Litigation,” Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools, Bi-Annual Conference; Episcopal Academy (October 2016)
  • “‘Love Train’: Everything You Wanted to Know About Philadelphia Chartering… and Then Some,” National Alliance of Public Charter School Attorneys Conference (September 2016)
  • “What is Special About Special Education?” Special Education Rights and Responsibilities Conference, Fox Rothschild Center for Law and Society (September 2016)
  • “Philadelphia: A Case Study” (with Robert O’Donnell) and “Statewide Authorizer Assault: Are Opponents Taking Aim… Or Are District Authorizers Embracing Their Authority?” (with Dan Woodring and Lisa Scruggs), Alliance of Public Charter School Attorneys’ Conference (April 2016)
  • “Special Education Compliance: Best Practices to Avoid Due Process Pitfalls,” Keystone Alliance of Public Charter Schools (March 2016)
  • “Charter Schools in Pennsylvania,” Pennsylvania Bar Institute (February 2016)
  • “Educator Misconduct: How to Handle Claims Against Educators, from The Allegation Through Litigation,” Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools Inaugural Boarding Schools Conference (November 2015)
  • “Accessing District Space” and “The Inequity of Authorizer Imposed Enrollment Caps,” National Alliance of Public Charter School Attorneys Conference (September 2015)
  • “Mandatory Reporting in a Post-Sandusky World” (featured speaker), Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools Bi-Annual Conference (October 2014)
  • “Legal Fundamentals for Non-Profit Boards,” Community College Non-Profit Institute (April 2014)
  • “Governing in the Cloud: Effective Governance of Virtual Charter Schools,” National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, Co-Presentation with Parker Baxter, National Association of Charter School Authorizer, Annual National Conference (July 2013)
  • “Serving Your Virtual Clients: What Virtual Providers Want to Know,” National Alliance of Public Charter School Attorneys, Semiannual Meeting, Stanford Law School (May 2013)
  • “Live ListServe: Presentations on Status of Pennsylvania Charter School Law,” Enrollment Cap Litigation and Financial Crisis of the School District of Philadelphia, National Alliance of Public Charter School Attorneys, Semiannual Meeting, Harvard Law School (October 2011); Semiannual Meeting, Loyola University Chicago Law School (September 2013)
  • “Understanding Charter Schools’ Public-ness in the Context of Section 1983 Liability, Tort Immunity, and 11th Amendment Immunity,” National Alliance of Charter School Attorneys, Semiannual Meeting (April 2012)
  • “Criminal Background Checks and Child Abuse Clearances,” Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools (August 2011)
  • Member, Legal Advisory Council (LAC)of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools (PCPCS) (2018-present)
  • Member, Pennsylvania Bar Association
  • Member, Chester County Bar Association
  • Member, Alliance of Public Charter School Attorneys
  • Member, Board of Directors, Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools

More about

Pat was born and raised in Northeast Philadelphia and is the mother of three sons. She is a trained soprano, and has sung with the Collegiate Choir of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.