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    Despite some opposition, the New Hanover County school board has hired a new law firm

    By Madison Lipe, Wilmington StarNews,


    As the 2023-24 school year has come to a close, the New Hanover County Board of Education has chosen a new law firm to represent them starting July 1.

    Crossley McIntosh Collier Hanley and Edes, PLLC will be representing the school district after debate on whether to continue with the current legal counsel -- Vogel Law Firm.

    The board hired Vogel Law Firm, a boutique firm based out of Charlotte, in May 2023 to replace previous firm Tharrington Smith after concerns surfaced over a potential conflict of interest between the firm and its insurance provider, Liberty Mutual.

    The board put together a committee to look at other possible options for legal representation in February after Vogel's former partners, the Sink Law Firm, separated from their work with Vogel and sued Vogel for breach of contract.

    After looking at other options, there was some concern about the qualifications of the new law firm when the board discussed it as an option at the May regular meeting.

    At the time, some board members said Crossley acknowledged that they did not have experience in education law and had never been to a school board meeting, but that their children go to New Hanover County Schools.

    Vice Chairwoman Melissa Mason felt that the firm was not qualified enough while Chairman Pete Wildeboer spoke in support of the firm because it would give the school system an opportunity to work with a local business.

    Board member Stephanie Walker spoke in support of the other firm originally considered, Poyner Spruill, which scored high on the list when it came to qualifications.

    At that meeting, the board could not settle on either Crossley or Poyner Spruill, so the board continued on with Vogel.

    At a meeting earlier this month, board member Stephanie Kraybill introduced the motion to hire Crossley and Wildeboer and Josie Barnhart voted in favor of hiring the firm.

    Mason questioned why board members were on board with the decision after there was previous concerns about the firm's qualifications.

    Mason and Pat Bradford both voted no to hiring Crossley and voted no to ending the contract with Vogel on June 30.

    Board members Hugh McManus and Stephanie Walker were not present at the meeting and therefore did not vote.

    Crossley McIntosh Collier Hanley and Edes is a Wilmington firm that was founded in 1949 and focuses primarily on civil litigation, counseling clients predominately in the areas of municipal defense, employment law and commercial litigation, according to the firm's LinkedIn website.

    The firm's attorneys also practice in both federal and state court and according to its LinkedIn site, provide comprehensive legal services and aggressive representation to individuals, businesses and insurers.

    The firm's rates for new partners are $250 an hour, $175 an hour for associates, and $125 an hour for paralegals.

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