PRACTICES

Public Sector

The McNees Public Sector practice group is a team of lawyers from various practice areas with the experience and knowledge to provide holistic and specialized support to solicitors and other local officials. We are a one-stop shop where solicitors and officials can turn to get help with the unique, complex legal issues that face governmental entities. We understand that public entities, at all levels, operate within a more heavily regulated and complicated legal framework. We also appreciate the practical challenges facing elected and appointed officials. Most importantly, we know how to help. We see how all of the pieces fit together, and that allows us to offer practical, effective solutions.

Often, lawyers or firms view a client’s situation only with regard to a single specialty practice area. The McNees Public Sector practice group takes a different approach. Our number one priority is to provide elected and appointed officials with a strategy to reach the best overall result. We partner with solicitors, officials, managers, auditors and financial advisors, to identify practical, cost effective solutions to difficult legal issues. We regularly help boroughs, townships, cities, counties, authorities, school districts and other government agencies address unique legal challenges such as the potential sale or lease of municipal assets, environmental and related regulatory issues, internal complaint investigations that require independence, complicated debt restructurings, costly litigation, or any other significant, complex legal issue. Our focus is on the legal aspects of these issues, and our goal is to solve your problems efficiently.

Our attorneys are keenly aware of the unique challenges facing public sector entities in Pennsylvania. We know about these problems because we currently represent entities at all levels of government, including Commonwealth agencies, counties, cities, municipalities, authorities and school districts. Another key basis for our awareness and approach is our own experience. A number of our attorneys joined McNees following successful public sector careers where their legal experience was shaped and strengthened. Our attorneys in the Public Sector practice group have a multi-layered perspective, because they have worked either in-house at the state, county or municipal level or within the agencies before whom many issues are decided.

As with all McNees attorneys, the Public Sector practice group professionals pride themselves on putting Clients First, which means that McNees attorneys always put our clients’ goals and interests above all else. We pride ourselves on responsive, quality advice and counsel. When we are considering fee structures, developing a solution to a legal problem, reviewing a new legal development and at all other times, we ask ourselves: what is in the best interest of our client? Each day, our attorneys think clients first and put clients first in everything we do.

Our attorneys focus complex legal issues in the areas of:

 

 


Education

McNees currently represents numerous school districts, intermediate units, charter schools, and cyber charter schools. A primary focus of our work for these institutions is special education compliance and litigation, including administrative due process hearings. We also assist schools and educational providers with legal issues related to school funding, teacher certification, and student misconduct. We routinely assist public education institutions with policy drafting, implementation, and review, and with contract review and drafting. McNees has extensive experience with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Pennsylvania School Code, and the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law.


Energy & Environmental

Our Energy & Environmental practice group focuses on regulatory compliance and has significant experience guiding public sector clients through complex regulatory frameworks and representing public entities and authorities before federal regulatory agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, as well as state agencies, including the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. In addition, our practice group is experienced in litigating before federal and state courts and other tribunals, including the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board. We also help municipalities defend Environmental Rights Amendment claims.

We also advise municipal entities who own and operate fixed utility systems (e.g., water, wastewater, storm water, electric, etc.) on issues regarding end user rates and rate design, as well as inter-municipal agreements concerning use of those fixed utilities. This includes dispute resolution regarding terms, conditions and rates for those fixed utility services for customers living outside municipal boundaries.

On the transactional side, we assist municipalities with the development and implementation of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainability projects. We also work with municipalities to obtain competitive market pricing for both wholesale and retail electric/power purchase contracts. In addition, we assist with asset monetization, whether in the form of an asset sale, long term lease, or long or short term operational agreement. To support such projects, we have facilitated successful public-private partnerships.

Our team also assists municipal entities within the Marcellus and Utica Shale regions on various issues regarding natural gas and oil issues.


Government Relations

We established our government relations practice to assist our clients with strategically navigating state and federal government. Local governments are regulated in much the same way as many private businesses, and sometimes, public entities also need help charting a course to get their concerns before policy-makers. That is where we come in.

McNees professionals include those with significant experience working inside the government who combine their relationships and knowledge of how the government operates to assist clients with effective strategies. Our team has gained experience working at some of the highest levels of government. We can help boroughs, townships, counties, authorities, commissions, school districts and other public entities present their concerns directly to decisions-makers, in both the executive and legislative branches of government, in an effort to find a solution that works for everyone.

Our government relations professionals also know from experience that executive and legislative elected leaders and their staffs have a real interest in understanding their constituents’ issues and what they need to succeed. We also know that a successful government relations practice requires credibility and an extensive network both inside government and sometimes outside of government as well. We work to make sure our clients have seats at the table for key discussions inside or outside government regarding policy or legislative efforts. Our professionals know what relationships are critical, what strategies best serve the client’s goals and how to achieve the best results for them.

If your efforts to get the attention of an elected or appointed official have stalled, or if you are looking to expand your grant and funding efforts, we can help. Our efforts include, but are not limited to educating government leaders, lobbying with regard to administrative policy and legislative initiatives, navigating government programs in order to obtain economic development support, interacting with government offices to get your pending requests expedited or obtain face time with decision-makers to ensure key issues are understood and addressed, and having a broad and deep understanding of comprehensive solutions.

The McNees government relations professionals put Clients First and use their unique qualifications to achieve our clients’ successes regardless of whether or not the representation requires a complex government relations and communication strategy or providing the client with advice that only comes with the experiences our professionals offer.


Labor & Employment

The McNees Labor and Employment attorneys are keenly aware of the unique challenges facing public sector employers in Pennsylvania. We pride ourselves on our proactive approach, which allows municipal leaders to stay in front of issues, rather than waiting to respond to costly litigation.

We aid municipalities by helping them develop the policies, procedures, handbooks and practices that help avoid costly and time consuming litigation. However, if you find yourself facing a difficult human resources or personnel matter, we can help.

Our attorneys have a proven record of experience and success in all facets of labor and employment law, including conducting police and non-uniform labor negotiations, representing municipalities and government entities in interest and grievance arbitrations, and defending employment litigation. Our attorneys advise public sector clients regarding their obligations under federal and state employment laws and regulations and routinely represent their interests before administrative agencies, such as the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, Civil Service Commissions, the Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. We also have experience assisting with the evaluation and implementation of regionalization efforts.

With offices in Harrisburg, State College, Scranton and Lancaster, we are uniquely positioned to provide critical, comprehensive services, in a prompt and efficient manner. We assemble client-specific teams of attorneys, paralegals and specialists to provide public sector clients with unique, cost-effective solutions to complex legal and financial problems.


Litigation

The McNees Litigation team represents governmental and quasi-governmental entities with regard to all manner of disputes. We routinely represent the interests of state agencies, counties, cities, townships, boroughs and other governmental entities as well as public authorities, universities and hospitals.

McNees recognizes the importance and sensitivity of disputes involving substantial financial and political stakes. Recently, we have handled matters for our clients, including:

  • Guiding the acquisition of property through eminent domain for public projects/utilities;
  • Advising a public authority with regard to litigation arising out of bond financing for a neighborhood improvement zone;
  • Defending federal civil rights claims against public and quasi-public entities, including a class action lawsuit against a correctional institution;
  • Representing the interests of primary creditors with regard to a city’s Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy filing; and
  • Defending the constitutionality of state legislation regarding Marcellus Shale development

Our litigators understand that when presented with a dispute, many legal questions arise and the process can be overwhelming. What are the implications of a particular contract? What rights can be enforced? What damages can be recovered? What remedies are available? We also understand that even though litigation is sometimes necessary to protect rights, it can be a drain on resources (dollars and time) and very distracting to a government entity’s day to day operations. Keeping these things in mind, we combine our broad experience with personalized attention to help answer all of our clients’ questions about a dispute, aggressively represent clients in litigation proceedings, and consistently and actively engage in counseling our clients to reassess the objectives as a case develops.

Public sector clients rely on our extensive experience before state and federal courts and administrative agencies, including the handling of high-profile litigation involving civil rights claims, contract disputes, eminent domain and land use matters, and personal injury litigation. Together with attorneys from our other specialized practice groups, we provide clients with the strategic thinking and comprehensive subject-matter expertise necessary to advance public sector projects and resolve disputes.


Privacy & Data Security

State and local governments routinely collect and maintain files of private and confidential information about their residents and constituents. Personally-identifiable information abounds in public records, including names, addresses, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers. When left exposed and placed into the wrong hands, that information can be used to perpetuate identity theft and other fraudulent activity.

The McNees cybersecurity team advises public sector entities on how to proactively limit the risks of data breaches and the ensuing liabilities. Our lawyers recognize that data exposure events are nearly inevitable, and so entities must seek to be “compromise ready.” We assist clients in reaching this goal by providing training and education, privacy and security assessments, strong data security policies, appropriate breach response plans, and attention to insurance and indemnification issues.

We help public sector entities, including state and local government entities, school districts and authorities respond to data breaches, including rectifying and reporting those events, and providing notice to affected individuals.

We also advise clients on compliance with federal, state, and international privacy laws, including compliance with governmental standards applicable to state and federal contractors.


Public Finance

The McNees Public Finance Group has extensive experience in representing issuers and other participants in municipal bond transactions. We have served as bond counsel to many state and local government issuers. Our state clients have included the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in general obligation issues and many state agencies in various types of revenue issues. These state agencies include the Commonwealth Financing Authority, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, the Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority and the State Public School Building Authority. We have also served as special tax counsel to the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.

Our local government bond counsel clients have included many counties, cities, boroughs, townships, school districts and authorities across Pennsylvania.

In addition to serving as bond counsel to issuers, we also represent other participants in financings including for-profit and nonprofit borrowers, underwriters, banks, trust companies and other financial institutions. The nonprofit borrowers we have represented include many healthcare and higher education institutions.

The transactions in which we participate involve the funding of new capital projects and the refinancing of existing debt. We have extensive experience with all types of debt structures, including competitive and negotiated underwritings, fixed and variable rate debt, derivatives, credit enhancement, large direct placements with banks or insurance companies, and more traditional tax-exempt bank loans.

We advise issuers and underwriters on compliance with continuing disclosure obligations and other securities law matters and with various tax requirements such as multipurpose allocations, qualified hedges, reissuance and rebate requirements.

In addition to financings, we also work with governments on related public finance matters such as the legality of various types of investments, the sale or leasing of assets, and the relationship between municipalities and their authorities. We have significant experience working on successful public-private partnerships.

McNees was ranked fifth in Pennsylvania, by dollar volume, in The Bond Buyer’s annual rankings of top Bond Counsel firms. In 2016, the firm was ranked fourth in Pennsylvania, by dollar volume, for its work as Underwriter’s Counsel, and is one of just two firms to appear in the top five Bond Counsel/Underwriter’s Counsel rankings for that year. In 2013, McNees was ranked the number one Pennsylvania bond counsel firm by dollar volume, according to The Bond Buyer. Our firm was noted as having served as bond counsel on issues totaling more than $1.4442 billion.


Real Estate

The Real Estate Law practice group at McNees delivers sophisticated legal advice to a broad range of clients in virtually all areas of commercial real estate and land use. Our clients include residential and commercial real estate developers, investors and lenders; buyers and sellers of real estate; businesses and non-profit entities, such as colleges and universities, with significant real estate components; and commercial lessors and lessees.

Our goal is to help our clients achieve their objectives at every stage of the real estate transaction through practical, efficient and timely representation.


Software & Technology Licensing

McNees regularly assists clients with the review and negotiation of software license, development, implementation and services agreements. More and more, boroughs, townships, counties, authorities and school districts are entering into technology-related contracts, including software service agreements. We take the time to explain the implications of the agreement, spot risk points and negotiate more favorable terms for our clients. Not only are we able to negotiate more favorable terms for our clients, but by working through the issues presented with a new software implementation, our clients are able to think more deeply about how to anticipate and reduce risks like software failure and data loss or exposure.

Working in conjunction with our Privacy and Data Security group, we advise local governments on how to navigate the increasingly high-stakes practice of collecting, transmitting and storing sensitive data.

Related Practices/Industries

News

Events

Publications

PRACTICE CONTACTS