Our Education Law Firm

Who We Are

The law firm of Nuttall, MacAvoy, & Joyce, P.C. has specialized in the areas of special education and general education law for over thirty years. During that period, the firm has participated in excess of two hundred hearings before the Bureau of Special Education Appeals and has represented numerous clients in both the state and federal courts.

 In contrast to other law firms, school law is not just a "sideline" attorneys’ business or one of many practice areas of our firm. Instead, our focus is almost exclusively on school law, representing public school districts and charter schools across Massachusetts. Our firm has attorneys with over eighty years of combined experience and other resources necessary to provide school districts with quality and effective legal representation, and our concentration on public school law results in substantial cost saving for our clients.



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Thomas J. Nuttall

Thomas J. Nuttall brings a wealth of experience in special education and school litigation, having represented numerous clients in hundreds of hearings and mediations before the Bureau of Special Education Appeals, Massachusetts District and Superior Courts and the United States District Court, First Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court for the last twenty-nine years. In addition, Attorney Nuttall has assisted numerous clients in investigations conducted by the federal Office for Civil Rights and advised clients in their own internal investigations relative to alleged civil rights violations. Attorney Nuttall has lectured extensively throughout the Commonwealth before school districts, collaboratives and private vendors regarding special education, discipline, civil rights and other related educational issues.


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Matthew MacAvoy

Matthew MacAvoy is a member of the firm of Nuttall, MacAvoy, & Joyce, P.C., and has specialized in the fields of disability and education law since 1993.  Attorney MacAvoy provides representation to public school districts, charter schools, and vocational schools in all aspects of education law with a particular emphasis on student discipline, bullying/harassment, and special education matters.  Mr. MacAvoy has served as a Massachusetts Mental Health Protection & Advocacy attorney, an attorney for the Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct, and as a Hearing Officer with the Massachusetts Bureau of Special Education Appeals.

Since leaving the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Mr. MacAvoy’s practice has focused exclusively on providing representation to public educational programs throughout the Commonwealth in regard to both general education and special education matters.  He is also a frequent speaker at conferences and training sessions for attorneys, educators, and other professionals on issues pertaining to education and disability law.  Over the past decade, Mr. MacAvoy has conducted more than 100 professional workshops and has served as a chairperson for Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education’s annual School Law Conference



Michael J. Joyce

Michael J. Joyce is a former public school teacher and currently an attorney with Nuttall, MacAvoy & Joyce, P.C. specializing in general education and special education law in public schools. Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Joyce served as a Civil Rights Attorney for the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), conducting investigations and trainings throughout New England concerning a wide range of civil rights concerns arising in public schools, including the enforcement of Section 504 and the federal statutes pertaining to harassment and discrimination based on race, color, national origin, gender and age. Before working for OCR, Mr. Joyce served as prosecuting attorney in the Gang Unit of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, conducting dozens of trials and evidentiary hearings with a specialized focus on gun violence and firearms prosecution. Mr. Joyce also served as a law clerk to the Justices of the Massachusetts Superior Court. Prior to pursuing a legal career, Mr. Joyce taught for three years in public elementary schools as a member of Teach for America during which time he was nominated for Teacher of the Year. Mr. Joyce graduated from Boston College Law School and holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. From 2008-2011, Mr. Joyce taught legal research and writing at Northeastern School of Law, and, since 2011, he has served as an Adjunct Professor at the Lynch School of Education and Boston College Law School where he teaches a graduate level course on education law and policy. Mr. Joyce has conducted dozens of presentations on educational law, including presentations to local, regional and national audiences.


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Leigh Mello

Leigh Mello joined Nuttall, MacAvoy & Joyce, P.C. in 2015. After graduating from Boston College Law School, she practiced in the field of disability law for ten years as a Protection and Advocacy attorney, and then worked in higher education as a full-time faculty member at Suffolk Law and an adjunct instructor at Curry College. She has taught courses in Disability Law, Legal Practice, Employment Law, and Health Law, and she has led numerous trainings on issues pertaining to special education, disability law, and inpatient and community mental health services. Attorney Mello served as Chair of the Department of Mental Health Human Rights Advisory Committee and as an Advisory Board Member of Suffolk’s Center for Teaching and Scholarly Excellence. She is a contributing author to two editions of the MCLE text, Legal Rights of Individuals with Disabilities.


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Kelsey M. Porcello

Kelsey M. Porcello is an associate with Nuttall, MacAvoy, & Joyce, P.C. Prior to joining the firm, Kelsey served as a law clerk to the justices of the Massachusetts Juvenile Court in Worcester, Essex, Norfolk, and Middlesex counties, where she assisted judge’s in drafting decisions and findings in civil child welfare matters and delinquency proceedings. During law school Kelsey was a student attorney in the Juvenile Rights Advocacy Project for two years. She also interned with the Committee for Public Counsel Services’ Children and Family Law Division and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division.  Prior to attending law school Kelsey worked as a paralegal/intake coordinator for Health Law Advocates and in victim services at the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance.  Kelsey is a graduate of Boston College Law School and Northeastern University.



Craig F. Kowalski

Craig F. Kowalski is an attorney with Nuttall, MacAvoy & Joyce, P.C. who represents school districts on general education and special education matters. Prior to joining the firm, Craig committed himself to public service as an Assistant District Attorney at the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office for fifteen years. As an experienced and distinguished member of the District Attorney’s Homicide Team, Craig investigated and prosecuted numerous murder cases from crime scene to jury trial, and also handled cases involving other major violent felonies, drug trafficking offenses, sexual assaults and crimes involving child victims. During his last two years, Craig served as Senior Trial Counsel, where he mentored and advised all the office’s attorneys with their investigations and prosecutions at all stages of cases in Superior and District courts while maintaining a busy caseload of his own. A recognized leader in the area of professional responsibility, Craig has taught at Boston College Law School as an adjunct professor for a course on Prosecutorial Ethics. Craig has also been a guest lecturer at Boston College Law School for criminal law courses where he has been invited to speak about various topics including mental health issues in criminal cases and trial strategy.

Craig is a proud graduate of Whitman-Hanson Regional High School and later went on to serve as an elected member of the Whitman-Hanson Regional School Committee. Following his graduation from Boston College with a Bachelor of Arts in History, Craig enrolled in the dual degree program in law and education at Boston College Law School and the Lynch Graduate School of Education, eventually earning both a J.D. and an M.A. in Higher Education Administration.