When you ask what drew her to practice education law, Jill Wilson cites her family of educators (both parents and her two sisters) who gave her a deep appreciation for “education as the answer for so many things society needs.”
She enjoys the strong connection between education law and constitutional law. “The legal issues schools deal with most are rooted in free speech and civil rights, which I have found exhilarating since law school,” Jill explains. She even gets excited over an aspect of education law that makes many lawyers blanch—“There’s often not a lot of precedent or obvious legal guideposts for the things that come up in education law. You have to resolve an issue just by figuring out what’s reasonable and practical,” she says.
Jill’s primary attraction to education law is personal. “I revere the mission of public education,” she says. “I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to be able to work every day on something that matters, something I care about.”
That energy and personal investment is rewarded by the trust placed in her by the school boards she represents. Jill has served as counsel for the schools in Guilford County since 1990, and she is legal counsel to the school boards in Rockingham and Davie Counties. She handles litigation matters for school systems all over North Carolina. “In many counties, the school board is that area’s largest employer and largest property owner as well as the organization that comes into contact with the most children and families,” she observes. “The attorney’s job is to help school officials act with diplomacy, common sense and respect for all the stakeholders they deal with. My experience has been that if education leaders can honestly say they took action that was fair, responsible, protective of students, and respectful, then they did the right thing from a legal standpoint.”
When not in school board meetings or working on education law matters, Jill turns to the sports “fanaticism” her dad instilled in her. And while her philosophy as a school board attorney is all about diplomacy and respect, her sports tastes are more of the ‘full-contact-take-no-prisoners variety.’ A Detroit native, she is a vocal Red Wings hockey fan. But she has made the adjustment to traditional southern sports preferences as well—she’s an avid college football devotee and a frequent winner of the office football pool. In the summer, she tries her hand at sports management, participating in a couple of fantasy baseball leagues. “I’m competitive by nature, and sports is one of my outlets,” she says.
Her appreciation for teams accomplishing goals in a competitive setting may give Jill added understanding of the “arena” in which public school systems must perform. “Everything a school system does is everyone’s business,” she observes. Parents, students, taxpayers, the community at large—they all have a stake in what you do.”