Lisa Karen Atkins

Shareholder Birmingham

Lisa has over 20 years' experience defending employers ranging from public and private colleges, universities, and technology centers to clients in international tire and automobile manufacturing, steel pipe, carbon black, logistics, security and other safety-sensitive industries, child care, food services, property management, automated retail, and small and family-owned businesses. She represents clients in litigation. EEOC charges, and other 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. 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).

Professional Activities and Speeches

Professional Activities:

  • Alabama Lawyers Association (ALA), Education Committee Chair (2018-present)
  • Council on Governmental Affairs (CGA), Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
  • National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA)


  • National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA) Webinar - ''Credibility and Investigations: Ensuring a Fair Process in the Face of Increasing Judicial Scrutiny'' - September 27, 2018
  • National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA) 2018 Annual Conference - ''Navigating Internal Investigations: Ethics, Politics, Communications, and Other Issues Present in Internal Investigations'' - Minneapolis - June 26, 2018
  • National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA) 2018 CLE - ''Hot Issues in Wage and Hour'' - Philadelphia - March 22, 2018
  • Ogletree Deakins Seminar - ''Managing ADA & FMLA Leave And Getting Employees Back To Work (or on their way)'' - Birmingham - August 18, 2017
  • National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA) 2016 CLE - ''There’s a Lawsuit on the Horizon: Preparing Your Internal Clients'' - Denver - March 31, 2016
  • Ogletree Deakins Client Presentation - ''Title IX Training: Beyond the Basics to Best Practices'' - San Antonio - December 8 - December 9, 2015
  • The University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service 2015 Government Leadership Program - ''An Active Approach to Ethics: Best Practices and Ways to Build an Ethical Culture'' - Memphis - November 09, 2015
  • Ogletree Deakins Client Seminar - ''Gender Identity: Transgender Employees in the Workplace'' - Birmingham - November 06, 2015
  • College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) Alabama Chapter Conference - ''Employment Law Update'' - Birmingham - August 18, 2015
  • Ogletree Deakins Webinar - ''The Interplay Between Title IX, VAWA, and the Clery Act: Your Questions Answered'' - June 02, 2015
  • Ogletree Deakins Seminar - ''Discretionary Attendance: Intermittent FMLA Leave and Leave as an ADA Accommodation'' - Birmingham - November 15, 2013
  • 2013 Government Leadership Program - ''Ethics: Best Practices and Ways to Build an Ethical Culture'' - Murfreesboro - November 05, 2013
  • The Missouri College and University Professional Association-Human Resources 2013 Annual Conference - ''Navigating the Hazards of Higher Education'' - Lake Ozark - 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 09, 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 04, 2012
  • Ogletree Deakins Seminar - ''Alabama’s Immigration Law and What it Means to You'' - Birmingham - November 04, 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 06, 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
  • Tennessee State University - ''2008 Legislative Priorities'' - Nashville - February 26, 2008
  • Tennessee State University Faculty/Staff Institute - ''Ethics, Integrity, Outside Employment, and Conflict of Interest'' - Nashville - August 17, 2007
  • Walter State Community College Faculty Institute - ''The Law and Higher Education'' - Morristown - March 2005
  • American Technical Education Association (ATEA) National Conference - ''FMLA Fundamentals and Legal Developments under FERPA and the ADA'' - Nashville - March 23, 2004

Published Works


Our Insights

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: A Pandora’s Box for Higher Education

March 15, 2018

The Department of Education Withdraws Obama-Era Title IX Guidance, Issues Interim Q&A

September 23, 2017

Back to School for ERISA Fiduciary Claims: How to Prepare for This Trend in University Litigation

August 22, 2017

Jocks and Docs: Classifying Postdocs and Coaches Under the DOL’s New Rules

June 22, 2016

NCAA Sacks Sackos Suit: Why NCAA Student-Athletes Are Not Employees Under the FLSA

February 22, 2016

NLRB to Consider Whether Students at Private Universities Are “Employees” Covered by the NLRA

January 14, 2016

Play for Pay? Not Today, Says the Ninth Circuit in the Latest NCAA Ruling

August 12, 2015

NLRB Moves to Assert Jurisdiction Over Religious Educational Institutions

June 29, 2015

Who Got It Right?

July 14, 2014

Will the Star Quarterback Be Sacked by the Taxman?

May 06, 2014

Are We There Yet?: Do Northwestern Players Have a Union or not?

April 23, 2014

Supreme Court Holds Voters Have a Right to Reject Government-Funded Racial Preferences in Public Higher Education

April 23, 2014

NLRB Regional Director Rules College Football Players Can Unionize

March 27, 2014

Is the Joint DOJ and OCR Guidance on Discrimination in K-12 Student Discipline a Warning Shot for Colleges and Universities?

January 17, 2014

Nassar’s “But For” Requirement Breaks the Chain for Retaliation Plaintiffs Relying on Temporal Proximity to Establish Causation

August 13, 2013

The Basics of Complying With the “Dear Colleague” Letter Issued by the U.S. Department of Education on April 4, 2011

July 25, 2013

No Obligation to Coordinate or Pay for Disability-Based Personal Care Services at Colleges and Universities

May 22, 2013

Texas Moves Forward with Bill to Ensure Flexibility in Admissions

April 15, 2013

As Compliance Deadline Nears, the Eleventh Circuit Leaves Employer Provisions of Alabama’s Immigration Law Intact

March 19, 2012


Media Quotes

April 13, 2018 - Birmingham Business Journal - "Insights into Labor and Employment 2018"
October 30, 2017 - Washington Post - "Should college students have to pay fees that go to groups they don’t support?"