Head of the Class: Former school teacher now specializes in education law


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

A former teacher, Robert Schindler later discovered his niche as an attorney specializing in education law—and finds his past experience provides a unique perspective when counseling school administrators.

“I’ve always felt it gives me a very personal and intrinsic understanding of the issues schools are dealing with on a day to day basis,” he says. “It’s one thing to discuss classroom management or pedagogy in theory, and another to have had to control an excited group of teenagers and deliver a lesson that will keep their attention.”

A partner at Lusk Albertson, Schindler focuses his practice on labor and employment law, general school law, and civil litigation and appeals. 

Education law is a field that has seen a great deal of change in the last decade, he notes—and has led to Lusk Albertson opening a new office in Grand Rapids.

“Since we formed in 2010, we’ve begun having more and more client school districts outside of the metro Detroit area,” he says. “We determined the time was right to set up a physical location outside of Detroit—Grand Rapids seemed a very natural fit because of the growth and excitement going on in that city, and because it allows us to have bases on the east and west sides of the state.”

Schindler has successfully represented public school clients in state and federal courts, as well as before administrative agencies (including the State Tenure Commission, the Michigan Employment Relations Commission and the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission), in labor arbitrations, and at the collective bargaining table.

The cases he enjoys most are those where he feels he is making a significant positive impact on the educational environment for students or in interpreting and applying new or novel approaches to the law. 

The case of Halliburton v. River Rouge Schools, hit both points, he notes.

“It was the second case to be decided after a significant change in the Michigan Teacher Tenure Act and the state of the law was still very much being determined,” he explains. “It also arose out of a school district’s desire to remove a teacher that it believed was damaging to the educational environment.”

Two other cases dealt with new interpretations of the law. Spohn v. Van Dyke Public Schools, the first case Schindler ever argued before the Court of Appeals, resulted in a published decision and the first case to apply federal law on judicial estoppel in the bankruptcy context in Michigan. Dawson v. City of Grand Haven, one of the few cases Schindler has done representing a municipal client that is not a public school, is currently pending application before the Michigan Supreme Court and is a constitutional case dealing with the right of governmental entities to control their speech.   

Known throughout the state as a school law attorney, speaker, author, and teacher, Schindler speaks regularly on education law and labor and employment topics to school districts and professional organizations, including the Metropolitan Detroit Bureau of School Studies, the Michigan Negotiators Association, the Michigan Association of School Personnel Administrators, and others.  He also has published articles in the member newsletter for the Michigan Association of School Personnel Administrators and has helped to produce regular newsletters for the Michigan Negotiators Association and the Metro Bureau. A member of the Michigan Council of School Attorneys, he currently serves on its Board of Directors.   

Schindler earned his undergraduate degree, cum laude, from Eastern Michigan University and became a secondary level social studies teacher.

“I enjoyed the opportunity to have a positive impact on kids – no matter how small,” he says. “I’ve always had a love for history and politics, while most people I knew only became interested in such topics as adults. I always considered it my challenge to take a topic that may otherwise be dry to many people and to make it interesting for adolescents.”

That interest in law and politics led him to his career shift.

“I went to law school wanting to get involved in government and having no idea there were lawyers that did what I did – represent schools every day.”

He earned his J.D., magna cum laude, from Michigan State University College of Law, where he enjoyed the competition and format of the classes.

“The necessity to get on your feet and talk and the pressure to be prepared every day is why I enjoyed the law school environment and loved my time there,” he says. “MSU was great to be able to do all of that in a good law school in the center of a busy Big Ten campus.”

Taking a class in education law, Schindler knew he had found his niche.

“It was an area I felt I really understood with my background in teaching and knew I wanted to pursue it almost immediately,” he says.   

“As for litigation and appeals, I believe arguing your case before a live audience is the essence of being a lawyer. I think there is nothing more exhilarating in the law than standing before a panel of judges trying to convince them of the correctness of your position.”

Schindler continues to teach, as an adjunct professor at Oakland University, teaching Education Law to teachers and administrators seeking their Ed. S. degree through OU’s Department of Educational Leadership.

“I love working with educators and seeing their dedication and love for their craft,” he says. “Teaching graduate level educators allows me to see a different side of the educational world.”

A native of Clinton Township in Macomb County, Schindler now makes his home in the village of Beverly Hills in Oakland County, with his wife Danielle and four children ranging in age from 4 to 11. 

In his leisure time, he enjoys cycling, and is a fan of Detroit and Spartan sports. An avid skier, he heads to the Rocky Mountains once a year to hit the slopes.

One of his favorite activities is handing out the firm’s annual LAunch Scholarships to high school seniors. “I’m continually amazed by the intelligence, drive, and talent of the high school students in the school districts we serve,” he says.