Franklin & Marshall College has appointed an experienced attorney with a strong background in higher education law to serve as the College's first general counsel. Pierce Buller, associate general counsel for the University of Pennsylvania, will join the College March 1 to provide legal and strategic advice on institutional matters for members of the campus community and F&M's Board of Trustees.
While the College for many years has received expert legal guidance from external law firms, an increasingly complex legal landscape for colleges requires ongoing coordination and counsel on a wide range of legal issues, President Daniel R. Porterfield said.
This includes the need for legal counsel related to issues of labor and employment, employee benefits, student conduct, governance, real estate acquisition, environmental and contract matters, charitable giving, intellectual property, litigation, and compliance with federal laws governing student privacy and Title IX's gender-equity provisions, among other matters.
"In this day and age, there is extraordinary value to having an in-house legal resource with expertise in higher education law, a deep regard for the culture of a liberal arts college, and the ability to work with all stakeholders of the College on matters big and small," Porterfield said. "Pierce Buller brings all of these qualities and is an ideal leader to serve as our founding general counsel."
Porterfield noted that the College has had outstanding relationships with a number of external law firms, principally with Barley Snyder in Lancaster, and Buller will be responsible for managing those relationships. Reporting to the president, Buller will be charged with ensuring that internal policies and procedures comply with federal and state laws and regulations.
"This approach undoubtedly will enhance the college's ability to manage legal risk and will prevent some of the problems that can lead to large legal expenses," Porterfield said.
Buller began his leadership in higher education serving as assistant dean of admission at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., before attaining his law degree at Villanova University School of Law. Prior to serving at Penn, he was a partner at the Dilworth Paxson law firm in Philadelphia, where he worked for seven years specializing in employment, non-profit, and trusts and estates law representing universities, schools, corporations and foundations.
He became associate general counsel at Penn in 2004, advising on issues related to employment, faculty and staff appointments, governance, admissions, community concerns and institutional policies.
"It is a great honor to be the first general counsel of Franklin & Marshall, with the leading light of Constitutional jurisprudence as its namesake," Buller said. "I am interested in bringing my experience at Penn and prior experience in legal practice to F&M and guiding the legal needs of the college as part of the institution's commitment to alignment with best practices."
Buller said his passion lies in making an impact in supporting the leadership of liberal arts institutions.. He holds a bachelor's degree from Colgate University, where he graduated with honors. He also has a unique family connection to F&M in that his twin sister graduated in F&M's Class of 1991.
"I am inspired by the vision and plans of Dr. Porterfield and the trustees for the future of the College," Buller said. "I am excited to be part of F&M's continued evolution to a truly national institution at the forefront of providing a preeminent liberal arts education."