The complex and evolving challenges facing colleges and universities require a dedicated legal team with the experience and expertise to meet the needs of higher education.
Colleges and universities are confronted with decreased enrollment, financial pressures, and tighter regulation. There is also more focus on maintaining a safe environment, assuring a discrimination–free culture, and adhering to fair policies in the face of charges of harassment and hostility between employees; faculty and students and student to student. Heightened sensitivity to misconduct triggered by headline–generating scandals has caused many colleges and universities to revisit their investigatory, reporting and disciplinary practices. In a litigious environment, higher education needs to be proactive while keeping a keen eye on managing risk and controlling expense.
The coordinator of our Higher Education practice is also a member of the National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA).
Intellectual Property (IP), New Media & Technology
- Online Learning: We represent educational institutions in connection with their online learning programs, including negotiating agreements with the vendor that the institution will partner with to run its online program; developing and implementing new institutional policies and procedures to address IP issues and best practices; drafting faculty and independent contractor agreements to ensure that the institution has the IP rights it requires; and counseling on the use of third party content, including whether the use constitutes fair use, is comprised of material in the public domain, or is available under a creative commons license.
- Technology Services: We represent educational institutions in the negotiation of a variety of technology agreements, including software and cloud based service agreements, working to ensure that the agreements are consistent with an institution’s obligations under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and other applicable federal, state and municipal laws. In addition, we have advised our higher education clients in connection with U.S. export controls where higher education personnel may travel outside of the U.S. with sensitive equipment or software. Where appropriate, we partner with an institution’s technology team to streamline procurement and contract review for technology services.
- Trademarks and Copyrights: We counsel educational institutions in connection with all aspects of trademark and copyright clearance, registration, licensing, and enforcement. In addition, we have provided advice on domain name portfolio management and disputes, as well as how to navigate the expanding landscape of generic top level domain names.
Litigation, Employment Discrimination, Disciplinary Matters and Title IX
- Litigation: We have represented numerous educational institutions in a wide array of litigation matters, including representation of an institution and several of its research scientists in highly sensitive and high–stakes litigation involving claims of misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of confidentiality agreements; defense of a university against claims of negligence and premises liability related to the tragic death of an alum during a reunion weekend; representation of an educational institution against breach of contract claims and associated misconduct related to technology services funded by the federal E–Rate program; defense of an educational institution against tortious interference claims brought by neighborhood business impacted by institution’s expansion; and representation of an educational institution before the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board related to environmental damage to school property.
- Employment Discrimination: Our firm has considerable experience counseling employers, including educational institutions, on reducing the risk of discrimination claims, investigations of alleged discrimination and whistleblower claims, and retaliation claims. We have defended employers before the EEOC and state and local agencies, in alternate dispute resolution, and in federal court in an array of discrimination matters involving age, gender, disability, race and national origin as well as in matters alleging wrongful discharge. We have handled individual and class action claims.
- Disciplinary Matters and Title IX: We have represented and counseled numerous institutions and their students in sensitive disciplinary matters including alleged sexual misconduct and assault. Our team has also handled disciplinary matters including sexual harassment involving medical residents and negotiated issues regarding separation and disciplinary reporting to regulatory authorities.
Regulatory Compliance, Business Counseling and Transactions
Our lawyers have represented large scale clients in a wide range of business matters and transactions including construction, real estate, vendor and purchase agreements, and joint ventures. Of particular relevance is our considerable experience in negotiating and drafting foodservice agreements, franchise arrangements, stadium operation contracts, meeting, conference center, and facilities management agreements, and hotel management agreements. We have also represented clients in litigation, arbitration, mediation and negotiation of disputes relating to real estate development and construction, foodservice, facilities management, hotel operations and supplier contracts.