Higher Education

Practice Overview

Members of Drummond Woodsum’s Higher Education team draw upon decades of legal experience, as well as leadership roles on college campuses and at the U.S. Department of Education, to provide sound and practical services to a wide array of postsecondary institutions. We take great pride in working with campus leaders to develop creative and cost-effective legal and consulting solutions to the challenges facing campuses today.

Our attorneys and consultants constantly track the ever-changing landscape of higher education law to ensure clients receive up-to-date insights and guidance across all relevant services areas, including:

  • Title IX Services
    Our attorneys and consultants have deep experience in Title IX and assisting postsecondary institutions in addressing and responding to reports of sexual harassment.  We serve as outside counsel to multiple institutions, assisting colleges and universities in formulating and navigating the Title IX grievance process. We have extensive expertise in drafting university policies, training administrators, faculty, and other community members.  Our higher education team also provides a variety of Title IX services to institutions across the country.  Many of our team members are expert investigators, approved by United Educators, and regularly investigate the most complex Title IX complaints.  Additionally, we often serve as Title IX Advisors to parties, mediate or facilitate informal resolutions, and conduct hearings as assigned hearing officer and Title IX decision-makers. We also represent schools in Title IX or other sex discrimination complaints before the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR).
  • Investigation Services
    While we are routinely called upon to conduct Title IX investigations, our investigation services extend to all forms of discrimination, disability-based grievances, and student, faculty, and staff conduct issues. We understand the importance of dealing with students and staff with sensitivity and ensuring that investigations are conducted fairly, promptly, and efficiently. We also train campus administrators and other personnel in conducting internal investigations that are effective and legally sound.
  • Student Conduct, Student Wellness, & Campus Safety
    Our attorneys and consultants have extensive experience advising on the full range of student life issues, including student conduct, student wellness, and campus safety; academic integrity; Title IX and gender-based violence; First Amendment and campus speech issues; civil rights issues and bias incidents; support for transgender persons; alcohol and other drug use; hazing; and student mental health crises and threat assessments. Services include policy and handbook development; evaluation and development of conduct processes; training for faculty, staff, and students; assistance with local law enforcement relationships; and compliance with CLERY, FERPA, and other laws. Our team also helps institutions implement other strategies, such as restorative justice and alternative dispute resolution models, as part of conduct processes.
  • Disability Law
    We provide expert advice and counsel to higher education institutions on properly accommodating students, employees, and other persons with disabilities. We develop policies; conduct program reviews and audits; provide guidance and assess the accessibility of facilities and technology; and provide advice regarding service and support animals on campus. We also provide training and representation in legal disputes (including OCR complaints) arising under the ADA, Section 504, and other federal and state laws.
  • Employment & Labor Law
    Colleges and universities often face complex human resource challenges that are unique to the academic setting. The collective experience of our labor and employment team enhances our higher education practice. We are uniquely positioned to advise on the full range of employment issues; labor union matters; grievance procedures; shared governance concerns; faculty autonomy; discrimination claims; reductions in force; FMLA and leave practices; employee performance programs; compensation studies; and workplace conduct. We provide sound advice and analysis across all employment areas, draft effective employment policies and handbooks, and conduct a wide range of trainings and seminars for faculty and staff. We provide a full range of services related to employee benefits for employees of public and private institutions. We have extensive experience advising on Social Security and Medicare; health insurance; benefit plans; COBRA; HIPAA; and disability insurance plans.
  • Immigration
    We provide comprehensive advice regarding the wide range of immigration issues facing campuses in both the employment and student contexts. Our attorneys navigate the procedures for employment-based immigrant and non-immigrant visa processing, as well as compliance with related federal immigration regulations. We assist institutions with I-9 compliance, including audits and training for human resource professionals. We also advise on compliance with the Student and Exchange Visitor Program and closely track emerging legal developments, such as considerations for undocumented students, to keep our clients informed in the rapidly changing legal landscape.
  • Privacy, Technology & Data Security
    We regularly advise colleges and universities on the changing landscape of campus and cloud-based technologies, including the creation and review of acceptable use policies for students and employees, investigation of misuse of technology by students and employees, and review and negotiation of contracts with software and hardware vendors. College and university data systems contain sensitive financial information, student records, academic transcripts, employment information, and other institutional data that must be kept confidential and secure. Our team advises on the laws and regulations governing the management and retention of confidential, sensitive, or otherwise protected data; the measures colleges and universities can and should take to keep such information safe; and the steps that institutions must take in the event of a data incident. Colleges and universities also have a substantial interest in safeguarding both their own and their vendors’ intellectual property and avoiding the potential liability associated with intellectual property infringement claims. Our attorneys provide expert assistance on the intellectual property issues and questions that colleges and universities frequently face, including those related to copyright protection and infringement; trademark protection and infringement; and trade secrets, among others.  Finally, our team also advises for-profit institutions on their obligations to comply with truth in advertising laws.
  • Finance
    We advise colleges and universities regularly on bond issues and tax matters specific to nonprofits and tax-exempt entities. More generally, we advise our clients on a wide range of financial and business matters, including tax assessment; land use and zoning; construction; real estate transactions; contract negotiations; reorganization; and bidding and procurement.
  • Governance
    We are experienced in developing effective institutional governance and oversight mechanisms, including advising on the size and composition of boards; faculty bylaws; and other governance documents, processes, and issues.

Our representative clients include Colby College, Bowdoin College, Tufts University, and Southern New Hampshire University.

Practice Group Leader

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