Lawrenceville hires Marcia Isaacson as in-house counsel/risk manager.
When long-time medical director Robin Karpf, M.D., H’14 P’11 transitioned out of that post in 2014 to become the School’s first risk manager, the position was largely procedural. Her initial focus was on centralizing administrative tasks like document retention and background checks and creating institutional policies to govern these and similar activities. Karpf’s retirement in 2017, combined with an expanding climate of risks and legal challenges among secondary schools, provided both opportunity and impetus to expand the role.
Encouraged by the Board of Trustees, Lawrenceville’s administration undertook an evaluation of the School’s needs. In recent years, peers such as Exeter, Andover, Deerfield and Taft have added in-house legal counsel to the risk managers already on staff, adopting operational standards already common to colleges and universities. Based on the study of its own requirements, Lawrenceville decided to follow suit.
Marcia Isaacson joined Lawrenceville’s Senior Staff on August 19 in the position of General Counsel and Director of Risk Management, reporting to Ben Hammond, Chief Financial Officer and Secretary to the Board of Trustees. She will also serve as liaison to the Trustee Legal Committee and as an advisor to the Board’s Audit and Risk Committee.
“There is a natural pairing of in-house counsel and risk manager,” says Hammond, “since both roles involve working closely with colleagues to protect the School while at the same time supporting the education of our students. And having in-house counsel means we’ll be able to take a more coordinated and thoughtful approach to our wide-ranging legal needs.
“The world has become increasingly complicated for institutions like ours,” he adds. “As Lawrenceville becomes better known, many of the risks we face are reputational, and our reputation is critical to our continued success.”
These risks run the gamut from student safety to employment issues, digital security to natural disasters, contract disputes to trademark infringement, and more.
Isaacson’s career has been an exceptionally impressive mix of public and private, civil and criminal law, and includes service as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York as well as with the Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, where she prosecuted high-profile public corruption and fraud cases. She spent the past 11 years in legal and compliance roles at major universities: as associate general counsel and chief compliance officer at the State University of New York (SUNY), senior associate general counsel and chief compliance officer at the City University of New York (CUNY), and most recently as the chief compliance officer at Northwestern University, where she oversaw the university’s compliance and audit functions and was actively engaged in risk management.
A native of Des Moines, Iowa, Isaacson holds an A.B. with Distinction and Juris Doctor from Stanford University, where she was an editor of the Stanford Law Review. Following law school, she clerked with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
“Marcia thinks about risk in a really sophisticated way, and she brings significant legal and risk management experience in complex educational institutions,” says Hammond. “She understands how institutions like Lawrenceville operate, and she’s committed to supporting the work of faculty and staff in providing a world-class education to our students.”
So what brought Isaacson to Lawrenceville?
“The job appealed to me right away,” she says. “The risks and legal issues that affect educational institutions are interesting, dynamic, and wonderfully varied. Plus it is rewarding to work in an environment where everyone is committed to improving the lives of young people.
“As the inaugural general counsel and risk manager,” she adds, “I will get to be an integral member of the campus community, shape the position to best respond to the School’s needs, and bring people together to make the campus a safer place.”
Isaacson says her first priority will be getting to know the School and the community. “I’ll be reaching out to meet with people and departments individually and look forward to serving on relevant committees,” she says. She plans to focus on building her understanding of the principal risks to the School, and will work with the various departments on ways she can help.
“Marcia is a natural collaborator whose instincts are to partner with colleagues,” notes Hammond.
“I think of myself as an advocate for strengthening and protecting the community and answering what might be the tough questions,” she says. “It’s a team effort – people are already doing a lot of the right things. I want them to see me as a good resource, someone who says, ‘Let’s figure it out together.’”