Mission & Story
The NCHERM Group, LLC is a law and consulting firm that offers systems-levels solutions for safer schools and campuses. The NCHERM Group is a repository for models that will enhance and advance your campus risk management and preventive law efforts. The NCHERM Group emphasizes best practices for policy, training, and prevention as proactive risk management. The NCHERM Group specializes in advancing culture change strategies and problem-solving for the tough wellness, compliance and liability issues colleges and universities face today. When you engage our services, you benefit from the collective wisdom, experience and constant collaboration of our twenty-four attorneys and consultants. We think you will find the services of The NCHERM Group to be both cost-effective and affordable. Contact us today to find out more.
“The NCHERM Way” — OUR STORY
Today, The NCHERM Group, LLC is a think tank of twenty-four consultants and ten executive and administrative staff members. We have provided services to more than 3,000 colleges and schools. We represent more than 30 colleges and universities as outside counsel, making The NCHERM Group the largest specialized higher education law practice in the country. Every day, more schools and colleges enhance the health and safety of their communities the NCHERM way. Our reach is vast and our impact is significant.
But, it wasn’t always that way. Remembering how we got here is important to keeping us connected to our mission. It is also important to tell our story to you so that you can see how the NCHERM way is a good fit for your needs.
Brett Sokolow founded NCHERM thirteen years ago with the goal of identifying, developing and delivering best practices for school and campus health and safety. In college, Brett’s experience as a peer educator and support person to a victim of sexual assault led him to believe that Title IX could change the way schools and colleges addressed sexual violence. Research and writing in law school convinced him that Title IX would reshape school and campus safety issues. He wanted to be at the forefront of that reshaping, and he faced a choice in how to do it. He could use his legal expertise to litigate against schools and colleges, or he could work from within the field of education to help the field embrace critical new concepts, rather than impose them. He chose to work for change from within the field, and he has never regretted that choice.
The National Center for Higher Education Risk Management was formed in 2000 as a not-for-profit corporation in Pennsylvania.* It took a while to catch on. Preventive law, and prevention through risk management were somewhat alien concepts for higher education in the early 2000s. NCHERM ran up mountains of credit debt as the field struggled to understand what NCHERM was, and how it could be relevant. Sokolow began to wonder about the wisdom of starting his own firm straight out of law school. Yet, he stuck to his vision, and in 2003 – 2004, the field began to turn to NCHERM for systems-level solutions to vexing health and safety challenges. Some clients engaged NCHERM in a consulting role, while others retained NCHERM as legal counsel. Brett was soon maintaining a schedule of more than 100 school and campus visits a year. His wife, Cori, joined him as Executive Director, and NCHERM thrived as a mom and pop shop in the room above their garage.
The Sokolows found that the education field wanted to know more about risk management, and was genuine in its desire to learn and embrace the concepts. Brett wrote constantly and traveled incessantly, and discovered like-minded colleagues from all over the country. From these kindred spirits, NCHERM developed a core of affiliated consultants who could help to advance the NCHERM way.
NCHERM continued to innovate, with models that became the standards in the field. Kate Halligan joined NCHERM in 2006 as Director of Client Relationships, a title that speaks volumes about NCHERM’s priorities. In 2009, Samantha Dutill joined NCHERM as a Client Relations Coordinator. Sam was quickly promoted to Associate Executive Director, then Executive Director, w overseeing all operations. In 2011, Michelle Issadore was recruited to serve as NCHERM’s Director of Educational Programs and to help run a new venture, SCOPE (the School and College Organization for Prevention Educators). In 2012, Marianne Price joined as NCHERM Program Coordinator.
It is worth note that 2008 also saw a transformative expansion of NCHERM’s executive structure, as W. Scott Lewis, J.D., joined NCHERM as a partner. In 2009, Saundra K. Schuster, J.D., joined the NCHERM family as its third partner. Affiliated consultants continued to join, and with the partners, gave new energy and potential to NCHERM’s ability to bring the best minds in the field together in fruitful collaboration.
2009 also marked the first opportunity for NCHERM to engage in the second level of its mission, venture philanthropy. Venture philanthropy, for NCHERM, means that if the field is enriching the firm, the firm needs to enrich the field. Perhaps that is another way of saying that to whom much is given, much is expected. NCHERM decided to seed a new venture, NaBITA (the National Behavioral Intervention Team Association) as a not-for profit membership association. The goal was create an endowment, staff and support structure, and to nurture the association until it could become independent and stand on its own as a resource for the field. The independence occurred in 2011, and NaBITA is now home to 1,000 school and college administrators who participate in behavioral intervention and threat assessment teams as a student support and violence prevention mechanism. Brett Sokolow serves as Executive Director of NaBITA, but much of the day-to-day management of the association is ably performed by Samantha Dutill in the role of Associate Executive Director and Conference Chair.
Venture philanthropy continued to be a theme in 2011, as NCHERM used its successful formula to seed two more independent, not-for-profit associations. SCOPE, the School and College Organization for Prevention Educators was funded with a grant from NCHERM, as a professional home for those who work in the many facets of prevention at schools and on college campuses. Its first conference in October of 2011 was a seminal moment in the prevention field. SCOPE is run by Michelle Issadore, who serves as its Executive Director while also providing services to NCHERM as Director of Educational Programs.
ATIXA, the Association of Title IX Administrators, launched in August of 2011. Already, ATIXA has more than 1,000 active members, and has provided training on Title IX, civil rights, discrimination and investigations to more than 2,000 school and college administrators across the country. Brett Sokolow serves ATIXA as Executive Director, as well.
In 2013, NCHERM became The NCHERM Group, LLC, a Pennsylvania limited liability company created to link our affiliated organizations synergistically. SCOPE, ATIXA, and NaBITA are independent, PA not-for-profit associations. Four subsidiaries are wholly owned by The NCHERM Group — Conflict Resolution Services, Student Affairs eNews and Title IX Expert Witness. NaTAG, the NaBITA Threat Assessment Group, is a subsidiary of NaBITA. Today, The NCHERM Group is staffed by:
- Brett A. Sokolow, J.D., President & CEO; Executive Director of NaBITA; Executive Director of ATIXA, Advisory Board Member and Founder of SCOPE
- W. Scott Lewis, J.D., Partner, The NCHERM Group, LLC; President, NaBITA; Advisory Board Member, SCOPE; Founder and Advisory Board Member, ATIXA
- Saundra K. Schuster, J.D., Partner, The NCHERM Group, LLC; Advisory Board Member, SCOPE; Advisory Board Member and Founder, ATIXA
- Cori Sokolow, M.Ed., Chief Operating Officer, The NCHERM Group, LLC
- Daniel C. Swinton, J.D., Ed.D., Senior Executive Vice President, The NCHERM Group, LLC; Associate Executive Director, ATIXA; Advisory Board Member, NaBITA
- Brian Van Brunt, Ed.D., Senior Vice President for Professional Program Development, The NCHERM Group, LLC; President, SCOPE; Advisory Board Member, NaBITA; Editor, SAeN
- Kate Halligan, Vice President for Client Relations, The NCHERM Group, LLC
- Samantha Dutill, Vice President for Operations, The NCHERM Group, LLC; Associate Executive Director and Conference Chair, NaBITA
- Marianne Price, M.S., Assistant Vice President for Professional Program Development, The NCHERM Group, LLC.
- Michelle Issadore, M.Ed., Executive Director, SCOPE; Director of Educational Programs, The NCHERM Group, LLC
- Alisha DiGiandomenico, M.Ed., Program Coordinator, The NCHERM Group, LLC
And, that brings us back to today, and a personal note from our President and CEO Brett A. Sokolow, Esq.:
Friends and Colleagues, The NCHERM Group, LLC is thriving, and we’re only thriving because you – the practitioners and administrators in the education field – find us relevant to your needs. We are grateful for your amazing loyalty and support, and we are paying it forward. We’re a socially conscious firm, we give back, and we treat our staff and our clients as family.
We’re doing our best to not only stay relevant to your work, but to expand our ability to provide leadership to the field. Our track record is our best asset. More than 80% of our clients are repeat clients. We represent the legal needs of more campuses than any other firm, and we get results. We are successful in court, and successful in keeping our clients out of court. We’re sought after as expert witnesses, and as media commentators, we help to shape the public debate and perceptions of school and campus safety. We are collaboratively moving the great wheel forward each and every day. “Systems-level solutions for safer schools and campuses.” That’s our mission. If it’s yours, too, please contact us to learn more about how we can help you to improve the health and safety of your schools, districts and campuses…the NCHERM way.
*NCHERM was not a federal 501(c)(3). It did not take donations or operate as a charitable foundation. It was not tax exempt. It has now been superseded by The NCHERM Group, LLC, a for-profit corporate entity.