Spencer Fane LLP Logo

W. Joseph (Joe) Hatley


Spencer Fane attorney W. Joseph Hatley square

T 816.292.8392
F 816.474.3216

Joe Hatley is a civil and commercial litigator who helps educational institutions navigate a myriad of federal and state laws so they can meet the increasing demands of lawmakers, parents, and students. In addition to supporting educational institutions, Joe defends employers in disputes with both employees and regulators, while also maintaining an active practice across a variety of business disputes.

Joe’s broad experience includes drafting policies and contracts, advising on how to comply with employment laws, and trying cases when claims are asserted against his clients, including claims alleging high-stakes constitutional violations.

His extensive work for educators — often among the largest employers in their communities — provides a natural segue to his work for other private and public employers. For instance, he defends discrimination and retaliation suits brought under Missouri laws, which are among the friendliest to employees in the nation. He also defends wage and hour claims, and provides wise counsel to clients with other employment law questions.

He also has years of trial experience handling business disputes across a wide range of industries, including trials involving construction, eminent domain, banking, aviation and property valuation.

Highlights of Joe Hatley’s experience include:

  • Conducted a high-profile internal investigation into allegations that public school officials retaliated against a co-worker for “whistleblowing” about the misuse of public funds.
  • Obtained summary judgment for lender on claims alleging lender violated promises to use its “best efforts” to assist with resurrection of real estate development following the collapse of the housing market. Lender was subsequently repaid in full, including attorneys’ fees.
  • Obtained a defense jury verdict in Jackson County Circuit Court on a suit under the Missouri Human Rights Act alleging race and age discrimination, as well as retaliation for jury service.

To view Joe Hatley’s additional representative experience, please click here.


  • The Wild Ride of 2023: New Year, New Laws
  • No Dollar Left Behind – Commercial Advertising in Public Schools
  • Litigating Cases Involving Children with Autism
  • The Impact of Off Campus Speech and Conduct in the Era of Facebook and My Space
  • The Missouri Safe Schools Act (2008 Missouri School Boards Association)
  • IEP Trouble Spots (2008 Local Administrators of Special Education Law Conference)
  • IEP Implementation (2009 Local Administrators of Special Education Law Conference)
  • What Every Educator Needs to Know About Developing and Implementing IEPs for Students with Behavioral Concerns (2009 Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorders)
  • Student Discipline, Special Education and Section 504 (2010 Charter School Law Conference)
  • Special Education and Seclusion/Restraint Update (2010 Kansas Association of School Boards Law Conference)
  • FERPA and Student Privacy (2010 Kansas Association of School Boards Law Conference)
  • Obligations to Homeless Students (2011 Missouri School Boards Association)
  • Related Services – Where Creativity and Budgets Collide ( 2012 Missouri Association of Special Education Administrators)
  • Understanding the Role of Your School Board Attorney (2014 Missouri School Boards Association)
  • Same-Sex Parents: Is Your District Ready? (2014 Missouri School Boards Association)
  • Guest on “Up to Date,” KCUR (Kansas City Public Radio), Sexual Harassment of Interns in the Missouri Legislature (2016)


  • Author, “What Employers Must Know About Speak Out Act Compliance,” Law360, January 2023


  • American Bar Association
  • Missouri Bar Association
  • Kansas Bar Association
  • Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association
  • National School Boards Association Council of School Attorneys


  • Missouri Lawyers Media, POWER List, 2022
  • Missouri and Kansas Super Lawyers, 2006-2007, 2011-2018
  • Best Lawyers in America, 2013-2023

Contact Joe Hatley at 816.292.8392 or jhatley@spencerfane.com.