Higher Education

Legal issues should not distract from the core mission of a college or university. Presidents, board members, administrators, and faculty must focus their attention on providing quality instruction, cutting-edge research, and impactful public service. GrayRobinson’s Higher Education Team can aid in this endeavor by providing proactive advice and training to mitigate potential legal exposure. We can also help to reduce the likelihood of legal challenges by assisting with the modernization of university practices and procedures. In addition, if a lawsuit is filed against an institution, our Higher Education Team is well-equipped to resolve disputes with as little disruption as possible.

Higher education institutions are facing unprecedented challenges from many sources. Effectively handling those challenges requires focused and strategic thinking, as well as the willingness to make difficult decisions and take action. Our team of higher education attorneys and government consultants has diverse backgrounds and the in-depth experience necessary to help colleges and universities effectively and efficiently address both legal and legislative challenges. We regularly advise higher education institutions in the following areas:

  • Administrative Proceedings/Alternative Dispute Resolution

    Administrative proceedings and ADR can be a cost effective way to resolve disputes in lieu of, or prior to, litigation. However, it is important to be represented by attorneys who are experienced with the nuances of each process. Our team can assist with:

    • Arbitration of labor disputes and employee grievances
    • Master plan challenges
    • Contract/construction arbitration
    • Pre-suit mediation
  • Athletics

    College athletic programs are entering a period of significant disruption to the traditional concept of amateurism. Uncertainty will inevitably lead to NCAA enforcement action as well as litigation. Our Higher Education Team can assist in areas such as:

    • Name, image, and likeness policies
    • NCAA compliance, investigations, and hearings
    • Coaching contracts
    • Title IX equity issues
    • Conference realignment
    • Sponsorship agreements
    • Media rights agreements
    • Financing athletics facilities
  • General Litigation

    Our experienced litigators represent colleges and universities against lawsuits filed by students, faculty, staff, and others, including:

    • Contract/business disputes
    • Personal injury/risk management claims
    • Student conduct challenges
    • Public records litigation
    • First Amendment claims
    • 1983 actions
  • Governance Issues

    Effective board governance is critical to a high-functioning college or university. Our team has extensive experience in educating institutional boards and administrations on best governance practices and common legal issues, including:

    • The role of the board
    • Open meetings and records
    • Fiduciary duty and risk management
    • Investigations
    • Board policies and procedures
    • Ethics and conflicts of interest
    • Diversity and inclusion
  • Government Relations

    Our Higher Education Team includes government affairs consultants who have decades of experience lobbying at the local, state, and federal levels on behalf of colleges and universities. Legislation regulating free assembly, diversity of viewpoint, financial accountability, and the continued value of tenure are becoming more common in today’s higher education environment. Our team is skilled in the analysis of proposed legislation that has the potential to affect higher education institutions, and we have experience advocating for (and sometimes against) substantive legislation, pursuing worthy regulatory reforms, and advocating within – and successfully working through – the amendatory and appropriations processes.

  • Institutionally Related Foundations

    As 501C(3) corporations, university and college foundations are subject to many IRS regulations that impact both the institutions and its donors. Experienced legal advice can reduce legal risks to both. Our team can assist with:

    • Tax issues, including intermediate sanctions, gift receipting, and UBTI
    • Estate planning and litigation
    • Real estate
    • UPMIFA
  • Intellectual Property and Licensing

    Compliance with wide-ranging federal regulations and successful licensing of university technology are critical to maintaining a robust research enterprise. We can assist with:

    • Technology licensing
    • Patent prosecution and litigation
    • Trademarks and copyrights
    • Faculty start-ups
    • Research misconduct
  • Employment Issues

    Our Higher Education Team includes employment attorneys who have decades of experience representing colleges and universities in all types of employment investigations and litigation, including:

    • Internal investigations of workplace misconduct
    • EEOC investigations
    • Litigation of claims alleging discrimination
    • FMLA
    • Wage and hour claims
    • Collective bargaining, including impasse hearings
  • Preventive Law

    The most effective way for a college or university to minimize legal exposure and expense is to proactively address legal risks before they lead to litigation or investigation. This reduces the likelihood of unnecessary and costly litigation that can stall important initiatives and become an unwanted distraction. Our Higher Education Team can assist with preventative measures such as:

    • Legal risk compliance audits
    • Review of policies, procedures, and practices involving student conduct, non-discrimination, Clery Act, VAWA, and First Amendment
    • Sexual harassment training
    • Sunshine law and public records training
    • Tenure policy reviews
  • Real Estate, Business Transactions, Public Finance, and Construction

    Our real estate, business transactions, public finance, and construction attorneys can handle a wide variety of commercial transactions, including:

    • Public-private partnerships
    • Real estate development
    • Environmental regulations
    • Construction disputes and litigation
    • Tax-exempt financing
  • Government Regulation

    State colleges and universities face a variety of regulations arising out of their status as governmental entities and as state and federal contractors. Our Higher Education Team can help in successfully navigating local, state, and federal regulatory requirements and contract issues, including:

    • Department of Education regulations
    • Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)
    • Federal and state contract issues
    • Open meetings and sunshine laws
    • Public records litigation
    • First Amendment issues
    • Due process
    • Procurement
    • Labor and employment
    • Litigation
  • Title IX Sexual Harassment

    The ever-evolving federal regulation of Title IX sexual harassment has caused confusion in the higher education community and requires a significant amount of legal work to establish compliant policies. We can assist colleges and universities with:

    • Sexual harassment/misconduct policies and procedures
    • Compliance audits
    • Investigations
    • Training of employees and Title IX investigators
    • Litigation