Educational institutions face the unique challenge of balancing the needs of students and faculty in a complex regulatory environment with variable governmental enforcement, all while maintaining the mission, culture, and core values of the institution.
Taft’s coordinated, multidisciplinary team allows us to provide these entities with pragmatic counsel across issues and disciplines. Whether your organization is a large or small college or university, a public or private school, a for-profit or non-profit institution, or an academic medical center, Taft will provide the representation you need to resolve complex legal issues and efficiently accomplish your goals.
Taft has a long and substantial history of representing educational institutions. We are acutely aware of the multi-faceted challenges — from financial risk to adverse public opinion — that each legal matter brings to these institutions. By leveraging our wealth of experience across practice areas, we provide education institutions with the highly disciplined and strategic approach they need to tackle the complex and varied legal situations they encounter.
Our attorneys routinely counsel colleges and universities on numerous issues in areas, including:
- Corporate Governance and Fiduciary Duties
- Corporate Transactions and Financings
- Environment and Energy
- Health Care
- Intellectual Property
- Labor and Employment
- Legislative Matters
- Litigation & Internal Investigations
- Planned Giving and Investments
- Privacy & Data Security
- Public Finance and Tax-Exempt Finance
- Real Estate
Our Accreditation practice represents numerous colleges and universities relative to their institutional and programmatic accrediting agencies. Whether as part of an accreditation review, visit, a complaint, or ongoing compliance, we work closely with our clients both at the institutional and program levels.
Charter schools turn to Taft for representation in complex employment law litigation as well as day-to-day activities, resulting in solid formation, sound infrastructure, and strong defense. We have acted as bond and school counsel for charter schools and third-party managers on more than $150 million of tax-exempt lease revenue bonds associated with financing facilities. We have been actively involved in the development of charter schools and assisted with the writing of Minnesota’s Charter School Law, enacted in 1991. Clients have included private managers of charter schools, as well as independently operated charter schools.
Taft’s Construction attorneys have represented and advised many universities on major construction projects, negotiating, and drafting design, construction, and equipment procurement contracts. We also provide representation in bid disputes, contractor claims, and surety takeovers, assisting with statutory and regulatory compliance, and providing representation in mediation, arbitration and litigation of claims, and representation in complex federal litigation.
Corporate Transactions, Finance, and Governance
Taft has significant experience representing and providing counsel to educational entities in all aspects of their operations and activities, including corporate responsibility, fiduciary duties, and governance, among others. Our Corporate attorneys also have extensive knowledge of the corporate, transactional, contractual, and compliance issues at institutions of higher education.
Environment and Energy
Our Energy and Environmental attorneys work closely with university clients to chart and implement cost-effective strategies for the acquisition and consumption of energy and sustainability products and services. In addition, through our exposure to a wide range of client operations and their environmental issues, we are able to quickly identify any environmental issue that might arise, including those from regulatory compliance and enforcement, the sale or purchase of property, and issues related to existing facilities, particularly those where hazardous materials are handled.
Our Health Care lawyers advise academic medical centers and teaching hospitals on virtually all legal issues affecting their operations, including negotiation of affiliation agreements, clinical trial agreements, and issues and grant administration issues. For major research university clients, our regulatory compliance experience includes HIPAA laws and regulations and rules controlling federal research grants and clinical trials (including human subject research and research misconduct).
Our Immigration attorneys counsel clients in all aspects of immigration, with heavy emphasis on the business needs of employers and employees of colleges and universities and academic medical centers. Taft’s practice is worldwide in scope, and our attorneys represent clients before U.S. embassies and consulates, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Justice and Homeland Security, and in the federal courts.
Taft’s IP practice focuses on providing comprehensive services and developing legal strategies to achieve solutions to meet an institution’s goals. For higher education clients, we obtain, enforce, and defend intellectual property rights throughout the nation. Our registered patent lawyers prosecute patent applications in the United States and around the world, and counsel clients on patentability, validity, and infringement questions. We also regularly provide counsel regarding the clearance and registration of trademarks, service marks, slogans and logos, copyright issues, and advertising compliance and clearance.
Our K-12 lawyers focus on developing strong relationships with administrators and school board members to fully understand their needs and the changing landscape or developing opportunities they may be encountering. By doing so, we are able to develop effective, efficient, and customized strategies and solutions for public, independent, and non-traditional schools.
Labor and Employment
Our lawyers help our education clients comply with frequently changing employment laws, regulations, and court decisions. We provide strategic guidance in all labor and employment areas, including hiring, firing, layoffs, discipline, leaves of absence, promotions, pay practices, investigating employee complaints, harassment and diversity training, affirmative action plans, and the review and drafting of employer policies. An overview of the type of labor and employment issues we assist education clients with include: state and federal claims of discrimination, harassment and retaliation; labor and employment laws and regulations; faculty issues including Academic Freedom, tenure denial and revocation, and collective bargaining; student issues including discrimination, misconduct and discipline, disability, and Title IX claims; constitutional claims; rights of state government employees; and Section 1983 actions.
Litigation and Internal Investigations
We have defended our education clients in individual and class action lawsuits involving claims alleging violations of Title IX and other claims of discrimination and harassment; retaliation; faculty tenure disputes; Family and Medical Leave Act violations; ERISA violations; whistleblower laws; breaches of contract; torts; and various other employment-related causes of action. In addition, we are frequently retained by educational institutions, including boards of trustees or directors, audit committees, and general counsel, to conduct confidential and independent internal investigations ranging from alleged Title IX violations, employee and student misconduct, Department of Education Office of Civil Rights charges, and NCAA compliance to alleged Clery Act violations, suspected grant fraud, and many others.
Planned Giving and Investments
Our attorneys work with educational institutions and their donors in developing planned giving programs, including the establishment of endowed faculty chairs and scholarships for students, as well as structuring charitable gifts and bequests to fund programs for restricted or general research. Our attorneys are particularly skilled at representing educational institutions and resolving disputes involving the issue of donor intent in creating trusts that benefit an institution. We also routinely review and advise universities, colleges and their related foundations regarding tax, security, and other legal issues involved in alternative investments (e.g., hedge funds, private equity funds).
Privacy and Data Security
Privacy and data security issues have become increasingly prevalent, impacting all education clients and creating a constantly evolving legal landscape in which compliance with privacy laws is critical. We proactively help our clients assess their compliance and identify the greatest areas in need of attention and improvement. Since responding to data breaches often requires a multi-faceted and rapid-response approach, Taft’s privacy and data security attorneys reflect expertise drawn from broad and significant legal experiences across our firm.
Public Finance and Tax-Exempt Finance
Taft’s Public Finance attorneys have extensive experience in the major areas of tax-exempt and taxable financing for projects of all sizes. Members of the group have served as bond counsel, underwriter counsel, purchaser counsel, issuer counsel, credit enhancer counsel, and borrower’s counsel in virtually all types of tax-exempt and taxable public finance transactions.
Our lawyers have significant experience helping our education clients balance their educational and research missions with strategies that maximize the value of their real property assets. We provide legal guidance on projects that further our clients’ educational missions, such as the conversion, expansion, and redevelopment of facilities, including acquisitions and sales, master planning, development agreements, zoning, and construction activities. We have also advised clients on the creation of sponsored research parks and have a nationally recognized practice in public-private partnerships on projects that include academic facilities, academic medical facilities, and student housing.
Taft has extensive experience in advising nonprofit organizations, foundations, and tax-exempt entities in all aspects of their organization and operation. We counsel clients on a wide range of issues, including governance, foundations, endowment funds, charitable giving and planned giving programs, and fundraising, as well as tax matters such as unrelated business income, intermediate sanctions, and joint ventures.