Lisa Karen Atkins


Lisa Karen Atkins has served as litigation and in-house counsel in a variety of settings since 1990. She has over 20 years' experience defending public and private employers ranging from colleges, universities, and technology centers to clients in property management, child care, food services, and manufacturing, including steel pipe, carbon black, international tire and automobile manufacturers, and small and family-owned franchises and businesses. She represents clients in litigation and state and federal agency proceedings and provides training, day-to-day legal advice, and pragmatic solutions that are tailored to meet client needs.

Lisa's practice includes Title VII, Title IX, the Family and Medical Leave Act, age discrimination, disability discrimination, EEOC charges and Department of Labor complaints, the Affordable Care Act, COBRA, the IDEA, and Title IV program integrity rules at the administrative, trial, and appellate levels. She is co-leader of the Ogletree Deakins higher education practice group and a member of the Ogletree Deakins employment law and litigation practice groups. Her experience includes state and federal agency on-site investigations, disability access and accommodation, including compliance with ADAAG guidelines, sexual and racial harassment and discrimination, reverse race and sex discrimination, religious discrimination, national origin discrimination, retaliation, tenure and promotion, wrongful discharge, constructive discharge, breach of contract, and related state law tort claims. She has successfully handled numerous EEOC charges, OCR complaints, discrimination and racial and sexual harassment complaints, and termination, and individual and official capacity claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1981, and 1985. She also conducts internal investigations and drafts and reviews employee policies and handbooks.



Lisa Karen Atkins has represented employers as litigation and in-house counsel in a broad range of employment matters including hiring, compensation, transfer, demotion, grievances, benefits, impairment and drug-testing, accommodation, employee discipline, termination, electronic use (internet and electronic mail), social media, conflict of interest, and military leave. She has substantial experience drafting and implementing employment policies and handbooks, discrimination/misconduct investigations, management reviews, and severance agreements. In addition, she has advised on workforce planning, restructuring and reductions in force in non-union settings and represented clients in connection with investigations arising under federal programs and regulations. Her experience also includes management training, conducting seminars and workshops, and assisting with the formulation and implementation of employment-related risk management strategies. She has successfully defended numerous EEOC charges, OCR complaints, and Title VII, age discrimination, Americans with Disabilities Act, and Family and Medical Leave Act cases for public and private employers at the administrative, trial, and appellate levels. She also has handled Title IX discrimination and individual and official capacity equal protection, due process, and First Amendment claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1981, and 1985.

Lisa is co-leader of the Ogletree Deakins higher education practice group and, before joining Ogletree Deakins, was general counsel for a mid-major, Carnegie-classified doctoral/research university; an associate general counsel for the sixth-largest higher education system in the United States; and an assistant general counsel for a major, division I, doctoral/very high research land-grant university and multi-campus system. In addition to employment law, her higher education representation included FERPA, procurement, negotiating coaches' contracts, game guarantees, sponsored research agreements, and affiliation, telemedicine and distance learning agreements, and strategic planning, land transfer and fair use. She also handled multiple student disciplinary matters, academic dismissals, including honor code violations, and NCAA and athletic conference investigations. She is a former member of the civil litigation division of the Attorney General, and a former government relations officer and chief of staff.

Lisa has been a speaker at national conferences, a faculty member for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA), and a guest lecturer at Vanderbilt Law School, Birmingham-Southern College, and Tennessee State University. She is a contributing author to the American Bar Association's 2013 Report on the Family and Medical Leave Act, and has presented on legal issues including employee discipline and dismissal, working with in-house counsel, conflicts of interest, and loss prevention. She served as a member of the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility Western Division Hearing Committee and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) Council on Governmental Affairs. She is currently a member of the National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA).

Education and Honors


J.D., University of Tennessee, 1989
B.A., English, University of Notre Dame, 1986

Honors and Awards: 
  • Appointed to the Western District (Memphis) Hearing Committee for the Board of Professional Responsibility by the Tennessee Supreme Court (2000)
  • Leadership Birmingham - Class of 2013

Professional Activities

Professional Activities: 
  • Council on Governmental Affairs (CGA), Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
  • National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA)
  • Ogletree Deakins Client Services Seminar - "Discretionary Attendance: Intermittent FMLA Leave and Leave as an ADA Accommodation" - Birmingham, Alabama - November 15, 2013
  • 2013 Government Leadership Program - "Ethics: Best Practices and Ways to Build an Ethical Culture" - Murfreesboro, Tennessee - November 5, 2013
  • The Missouri College and University Professional Association-Human Resources 2013 Annual Conference - "Navigating the Hazards of Higher Education" - Lake Ozark, Missouri - October 17, 2013
  • Samford University - "FERPA and the Americans with Disabilities Act" - Birmingham - November 12, 2012
  • Ogletree Deakins Seminar - "Effective Employee Discipline and Dismissal" - Birmingham - November 9, 2012
  • Alabama State Bar Labor & Employment Law Section - "Working with In-house Counsel: Ways to Maximize Potential for a Successful Outcome" - Orange Beach - October 13, 2012
  • CUPA-HR Alabama Chapter Conference - "Legal Issues in Higher Education HR" - Birmingham - May 4, 2012
  • Ogletree Deakins Seminar - "Alabama’s Immigration Law and What it Means to You" - Birmingham - November 4, 2011
  • Tennessee State University Faculty Institute - "Legal Developments in Higher Education: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly" - Nashville - August 19, 2010
  • Tennessee State University, Educational Administration & Leadership - "The Law of Higher Education" - Nashville - April 29, 2010
  • Tennessee State University - "Ethics and Professionalism in Computing" - Nashville - April 6, 2010
  • Tennessee State University - "Federal Higher Education Funding Legislation 2010-2020" - Nashville - January 15, 2010
  • Tennessee State University - "Ethics and Technology" - Nashville - November 23, 2009
  • Tennessee State University Faculty Institute - "Legal Issues in Classroom Management" - Nashville - August 25, 2009
  • Tennessee State University - "Rethinking Priorities and Resources: a Review of Current Higher Education Budget Realities" - Nashville - July 27, 2009

In The News

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