What Happens When You Call ATPE?
By: Paul Tapp, ATPE Managing Attorney
“I’m calling my lawyer” isn’t a phrase reserved for movie characters or the wealthy. For eligible ATPE members*, it’s a reality. Reaching out to an attorney for employment-related advice can be intimidating, but ATPE Member Legal Services (MLS)** does everything it can to make the experience comfortable for eligible ATPE members. We are here to serve you. That is not just hype. As licensed attorneys and support staff, we have a duty to put your interests first.
Confidential and Convenient
MLS fields approximately 12,000–14,000 member calls each year. What happens when you dial ATPE and tell the receptionist you have a legal question?
First, you will talk to our legal receptionist, who will determine whether you are an eligible member. We can’t have our members’ hard-earned dues subsidizing educators who have not joined ATPE. To confirm that you are a member, we will need your information. Rest assured, though—all calls to MLS are completely confidential. As attorneys, our team is required to maintain confidentiality.
The legal receptionist will then find out if you are already working with an attorney or calling about a new issue. If the former, she will transfer you directly to that attorney. If the latter, she will transfer you to one of our legal assistants.
What Happens Next?
If you are calling about a new issue, you will talk to one of our legal assistants, who will verify your contact information and ask the reason for your call. This is to make sure we can get back in touch with you and that we can assist. We do this upfront so our attorneys can spend more time answering members’ legal questions. The legal assistant will take notes to share with the attorney so that you will not need to repeat your story.
Finally, the legal assistant will ask who else is involved. This ensures that every eligible member gets an independent attorney who will look out for only their interests. With an organization the size of ATPE, it is possible to have two members in conflict with one another. ATPE never takes sides. We ensure each member gets an independent attorney to look out for only them.
After the legal assistant has this information, she will either transfer you to one of our attorneys or set up a time—at your convenience—for the attorney to call you back.
We Help, But You Decide
During your initial talk with an attorney, we will inform you of the laws or rules that apply to your situation, what options you have, and the pros and cons of each option. We want to provide you with the information you need to make the best decision for you. Yes, you read that right: You will decide what you do. We make recommendations, and provide explanations for those recommendations, but we will never pressure you to choose a particular option. That does not mean we don’t ever have to give bad news to our clients. Regardless of the outcome of your case, we will always be honest with you.
Resolving Your Situation
Your phone call with an attorney isn’t necessarily the end of ATPE’s assistance. An ATPE attorney might contact your district’s human resources director to resolve a leave issue, assist you with responding to a reprimand or unfavorable evaluation, or represent you in a grievance or an investigation into allegations that could threaten your certificate. Again, none of this is done without your prior approval.
ATPE MLS is dedicated to providing you with the knowledge and assistance you need to be successful in your career. If you have employment-related legal concerns, please reach out to us at (800) 777-ATPE, or use our confidential form at atpe.org/Protection/MLSIS/Access.
*THE EDUCATORS PROFESSIONAL LIABILITY INSURANCE POLICY IS UNDERWRITTEN BY NATIONAL UNION FIRE INSURANCE CO. OF PITTSBURGH, PA. ALL COVERAGE IS SUBJECT TO THE EXPRESS TERMS OF THE MASTER INSURANCE POLICY ISSUED TO ATPE AND KEPT ON FILE AT THE ATPE STATE OFFICE. Coverage applies to an insured’s activities within his/her professional capacity and does not apply to activities that predate the coverage period. View the insurance policy details here. Eligibility for ATPE membership benefits is contingent upon ATPE’s receipt of the entire annual membership dues amount for your appropriate membership category. A disruption in payments to an authorized payment plan may result in discontinuation of such benefits, including cancellation of insurance coverage for the entire membership year retroactive to Aug. 1 or your membership date. ATPE reserves the right to determine the appropriate membership category. The ATPE membership year runs from Aug. 1 to July 31.
**The insured member services and staff attorneys’ assistance are offered through separate programs.
The legal information provided on this website is for general purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for individual legal advice or the provision of legal services. Accessing this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. Individual legal situations vary greatly and readers should consult directly with an attorney. Eligible ATPE members should contact the ATPE Member Legal Services Department using our online contact form.