Firms To Watch: Education

Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP has strength in high-stakes litigation across Title IX matters and a proven track record securing victories for Ivy League institutions, including Columbia University. Roberta Kaplan leads the group from New York and handles gender-based misconduct issues, whilst in Washington, DC,  Joshua Matz is recommended for sex discrimination matters.

Education in United States

Choate, Hall & Stewart

Based out of Boston, the multidisciplinary education group at Choate, Hall & Stewart has demonstrable strength advising medical institutions and academic medical centers on sensitive investigations and internal reviews pertaining to alleged misconduct and federal grant misuse. Practice head Christine Savage remains a key name to note, having over two decades of experience advising healthcare related clients on reviews and compliance. Joan Lukey and Justin Wolosz bring high-stakes litigation expertise to the group and are the main points of contact for government investigations and litigation for higher education institutions on allegations of misconduct and sexual abuse by staff. Elsewhere, the group also has a foreign influence subgroup which deals with academic espionage and university ties to foreign governments. Alison Reif and Lyndsey Kruzer handle employment related issues, including terminations and disputes. Greg Keating has left the firm.

Practice head(s):

Christine Savage; Joan Lukey; Alison Reif

Other key lawyers:

Lyndsey Kruzer; Justin Wolosz

Key clients

Dartmouth College/Amherst College

Harvard University

Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE)

Tufts University

Work highlights

  • Representing Harvard in a lawsuit brought by Prof. Charles M. Lieber seeking advancement of legal fees and indemnification in connection with criminal charges.
  • Representing Tufts University School of Medicine in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Civil Action No. 21-cv-11373, against a for-profit education company called Evidence in Motion, LLC (“EIM”).
  • Representing the Committee on Financing Higher Education (COFHE), a nonprofit comprised of 31 elite colleges and universities as general outside counsel with a specific focus on antitrust compliance.

Husch Blackwell LLP

Fielding a coast-to-coast presence, Husch Blackwell LLP continues to be a market leader in education with demonstrable strength in Title IX independence reviews and investigations. Hayley Hanson leads the practice and handles sensitive investigations on sexual assault and racial discrimination in higher education institutions, having over two decades of experience in this area. She also has additional expertise in the Clery Act and Title IV Federal Student Aid matters. Litigator Derek Teeter represents colleges and universities in complex disputes, with a specialty in sexual misconduct, religious liberty and freedom of speech issues. In Austin, Scott Schneider is the name for employment related matters and institutional misconductIn Chicago, core members of the group include managing partner Julie Miceli who advises both private and public institutions on financial aid and charitable contributions, strengthened by her background as former general counsel for federal student aid at the US Department of Education, and Lisa Parker who has a health-care related education focus and a strong regulatory practice. Senior counsel Richard Goldstein in Boston is rated by peers and focuses on litigation for healthcare clients. The group has an active pro-bono practice advising prominent black institutions on additional federal funding. Lawyers are based in Kansas City unless otherwise stated.

Practice head(s):

Hayley Hanson

Other key lawyers:

Lisa Parker; Derek Teteer; Julie Miceli; Scott Schneider; Richard Goldstein; Sean Tassi; Annie Cartwright; Demetrius Peterson

Testimonials

‘Husch Blackwell is a leader in content knowledge across all issues of higher education. They have an array of subject matter experts and capabilities are far superior to any firms with whom we have dealt. Not only do they have a historic and current firm grasp on legal precedents and laws, they have a practical focus and understanding of clients’ situations and look to the future in recommendations. HB’s uniqueness comes in the human touch, the content expertise, the value provided and frankly, exceptional results. We are pleased by collaboration across issues as associates break down silos to get at solutions – and look to the future in recommendations.’

Great quality people, personable, highly responsive, focused and dependable, teachers, mentors, listeners, connectors and collaborators, respectful, the highest of integrity – to name a few. Hayley Hanson leads the pack – but we have to name everyone with whom we come in contact – Derek Teeter, Sean Tassi, Annie Cartwright, Julie Miceli, Demetrius Peterson – to name a few!

Key clients

Chicago State

Franciscan University of Steubenville

Indiana State University

MidAmerica Nazarene University

Johns Hopkins University

Louisiana State University

Northeastern Illinois University

Northwestern University

Northwest Missouri State University

St. Louis University

Texas A&M University

Trevecca Nazarene

United Educators

University of Illinois

University of Tulsa

Wichita State University

William Jewell College

Work highlights

  • Represented Franciscan University of Steubenville in a federal case in Ohio filed by a faculty member against the university alleging he was constructively discharged based on age and religious discrimination from his own students.
  • Advised on an independent investigation of sexual misconduct at Louisiana State University.
  • Represented Northwestern University in an energy P3 for the campus, including negotiating a master energy-as-a-service agreement that provides for multiple service agreements on behalf of the private university.

WilmerHale

Showcasing strength across high-stakes litigation for colleges and universities, the higher education practice at WilmerHale has a solid market reputation as a go-to firm for contentious mandates spanning gender-based and sexual misconduct, discrimination, and government investigations. Led out of Washington DC, the group has expertise handling Title IX, Title VI, and other federal anti-discrimination statues for educational clients, and is jointly managed by Bruce Berman and seasoned litigator Jamie Gorelick. Special counsel Tania Faransso represents universities ingovernment investigations, sensitive internal reviews related to Title IX and in various stages of litigation, including trial and appellate proceedings. In New York, Debo Adegbile now leads the firm’s anti-discrimination practice alongside Brenda Lee after the departure of Danielle Conley who is now Deputy Counsel to the President at the Office of the White House Counsel. The team also has a specialism advising on financial aid, federal grants, and advises universities on issues related to the misuse of research funds.

Practice head(s):

Jamie Gorelick; Bruce Berman

Other key lawyers:

Brenda Lee; Tania Faransso; Debo Adegbile

Work highlights

  • Secured the dismissal of all Title IX discrimination claims, parts of the Title VII discrimination and retaliation claims, and the state law whistle blower claims against client Georgia Tech Athletic Association in a lawsuit filed by former Georgia Tech women’s basketball coach, MaChelle Joseph, alleging sex discrimination, retaliation, a retaliatory and hostile work environment and breach of contract.
  • Secured significant win for our client, President and Fellows of Harvard College, when the First Circuit upheld the lawfulness of Harvard’s consideration of race in its undergraduate admissions process.
  • Represent Massachusetts Institute of Technology in connection with the arrest and indictment of Professor Chen, a faculty member in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, for wire fraud, failing to file a foreign bank account report (FBAR) and making a false statement in a tax return.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

At Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, the education practice is now led by Michael Vernick and has a strong dispute resolution background across Title IX matters and misconduct issues. Based in Washington, DC, the practice works closely with its global investigations and compliance group on complex litigation and internal investigations for universities and healthcare sector clients. The team is also active in cyber security and data issues. Counsel Marta Thompson, who joined the team from Hogan Lovells US LLP in July 2021, has a specialism representing higher education institutions in foreign influence investigations. In New York, Estela Diaz handles investigations in relation to misconduct and is a credited Title IX investigator.

Practice head(s):

Michael Vernick

Other key lawyers:

Marta Thompson; Estela Diaz

Key clients

Tulane University

Rice University

Southern Methodist University

Southeastern Conference

Work highlights

  • Represented Tulane University in federal court against a putative class of students seeking tuition and fee refunds due a shift to online learning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Advising Southeastern Conference, a top collegiate athletic conference, to develop and pass federal legislation addressing the high-profile issue of compensation for student-athletes based upon name, image and likeness.

Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman

The higher education group at Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman has a robust practice spanning across Title IX and student defense, with a specialty in research misconduct issues. Jointly managed by Paul Thaler who has extensive experience in the research misconduct field, and former federal prosecutor Shanlon Wu, the team handles internal investigations, sensitive reviews and complex criminal and civil litigation for academic institutions and students. The practice has seen an uptick in investigations, and is known for its national work for professors in research misconduct claims — associate Paul Simon advises scientists on plagiarism and fabrication matters. Also in the core group is former federal prosecutor and experienced litigator Julie Grohovsky who acts for college tridents on sexual harassment matters. In Philadelphia, associate Ashling Ehrhardt is the name for Title IX work for education institutions and private individuals. Lawyers are in Washington DC unless otherwise stated.

Practice head(s):

Paul Thaler; Shanlon Wu

Other key lawyers:

Paul Simon; Julie Grohovsky; Ashling Ehrhardt

Duane Morris LLP

Duane Morris LLP' team is predominantly based out of San Diego, and has an extensive offering across litigation, employment law, and cyber security for colleges and higher education clients. The core team is comprised of managing partner of the San Diego office Edward Cramp, who represents universities in litigation, Anthony Guida, who is the name for accreditation matters, focusing mainly on pre-K-12, and counsel Keith Zakarin, who holds various national schools and colleges as key clients. Katherine Brodie leads the firm’s national education policy practice from Washington DC, and specializes in Title IV, Title IX, and other regulatory work. The team also advises on corporate matters including revising faculty charters, regional accreditation standards, and acquisition structures. In Chicago, Lisa Scruggs works with school districts and education non-profits on policy and reform.

Practice head(s):

Anthony Guida; Katherine Brodie; Edward Cramp; Lisa Scruggs

Other key lawyers:

Dan Pierce; Mariette Stigter; David Drobner, Maria Caceres-Boneau; Ken Lazarek; Jon Popin; Meghan DiPerna; Keith Zakarin

Testimonials

‘Duane Morris is an awesome full service law firm. It has superior bench strength in education and a broad range of specialized areas. We have worked with approximately 20 Duane Morris lawyers over the past few years and are constantly impressed with their skills, professionalism, personability, ability to temper legal advice with practical business awareness.’

‘Lawyers are very responsive and connect us successfully with the right specialized subject matter expert on very short notice. Duane Morris exudes a strong team approach.’

‘Strong communicators with an awareness of client business and risk context; practical and direct; polite, friendly and personable with the right balance of humor and “human” skills which makes the lawyers a pleasure to deal with.’

‘The breadth and depth of the team’s educational law experience and their practical approach to problem solving as well as their responsiveness to client needs.’

‘The partners in the Education Law practice have unrivaled experience in the education sector including practical business experience as well as policy and political knowledge. Tony Guida and Lisa Scruggs combine to bring the best of business and policy to the education engagements they are involved in. They are also very responsive and great people to work with. I highly recommend them to anyone looking for advice in the education arena!’

Key clients

General Atlantic

Sterling Fund Management LLC dba Avathon Partners

Perdoceo Education Corporation

Spartan Education Group

Alliant International University

PA State Employees Retirement System

Lafayette College

American Career College

Holy Family University

New Jersey Charter School Association

LEARN Charter School Network

Chicago State University

Work highlights

  • Advised General Atlantic, on a $60m Series C investment into K-12 education platform Panorama.
  • Advised Avathon Partners in its investment in Student Resource Center, which enables labor unions and other professional associations to offer “education-as-a-benefit” to their members.
  • Represented Lafayette College in connection with a $50m development outside its traditional campus boundaries in the city of Easton, Pennsylvania, assisting the City in redrafting the zoning code and successfully obtaining approvals for the project.

Goodwin

Based in Boston, the multidisciplinary higher education practice at Goodwin is frequently instructed by leading schools and colleges on the full range of matters, with strength in investigations. The team is noted for its strong litigation background and includes key names such as Jennifer Chunias who holds various education instructions and private healthcare companies as key clients. On the white-collar defense side, Joseph Savage  is the main contact, specializing in complex civil litigation for individuals. The team has sector strength across IP and has bolstered its cyber security and privacy offering with the arrival of partner Boris Segalis from Cooley LLP in early 2021.

Other key lawyers:

Jennifer Chunias; Joseph Savage; Boris Segalis

Key clients

CollegeVineNoMassachusetts Institute of Technology

OutSchool, Inc.

Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District

Simmons University

University of Pittsburgh-of the Commonwealth System of Higher Education

Wellesley College

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Work highlights

  • Advised on an investigation into both Jeffrey Epstein’s donations and Epstein’s other interactions with MIT, including any visits to campus.
  • Represented Worcester Polytechnic Institute, a Massachusetts university, in connection with fraudulent conveyance claims filed in Massachusetts federal district court.
  • Represented one of the “Varsity Blues” parents charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud in connection with her son’s college application process. The client entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to three weeks in prison.

Hogan Lovells US LLP

The education team at Hogan Lovells US LLP has extensive experience handling investigations, regulatory matters and litigation with a strong bench  based in Washington DC. The group is co-led by head of global education Stephanie Gold and is active in the academic medical center space advising on regulatory changes, acquisitions, and reorganizations. Immigration matters, foreign influence issues and Title IX work also feature in the workload. Co-head William Ferreira, who also leads the firms global public procurement practice, handles international work for universities expanding into the Asian and Middle Eastern markets, as well as advising on online education programs. Also in the team is counsel Joel Buckman who focuses on regulatory compliance for a range of education institutions and is the name for employment related issues. The Houston team has been bolstered with the arrival of Andrew Strong and Barry Burgdorf; both served as former general counsel for research universities and have expertise acting for public and private academic institutions.

Practice head(s):

Stephanie Gold; William Ferreira

Other key lawyers:

Joel Buckman; Andrew Strong; Barry Burgdorf

Testimonials

‘The teams communicative and interpersonal skills when it comes to dealing with clients and partners is very impressive compared to some of the other firms I’ve dealt with.’

‘William Ferreira stood out due to his good technical capacities and knowledge of the Mozambican market and American clients working in Mozambique. Adilene Rosales also impressed me, she was very organized and professional in her conduct.’

‘Totally understands the client’s objectives and how best to realize objectives. Collaborative and willing to think outside the box. Very responsive, highly informed, and willing to think through objectives.’

‘Though I have a long history of working with Hogan Lovells, and recently needed to look to them for something entirely different in a new role and market, as among the highest quality global firms, I knew I could count on them to have the expertise and experience to assist.’

‘I have worked extensively with Bill Ferreira on matters advancing the interests of a US organization overseas in some particularly challenging territories. Having shepherded literally dozens of entities on their journey, the benefits of the breadth and depth of his experience are immediately clear. He is trusted by my organization to provide candid, strategic and practical advice to help us navigate sometimes murky, unpredictable processes.’

‘Full range of services available across all areas of law, which proved essential as we could not have anticipated the entire spectrum of legal work necessitated by the complex transaction Hogan Lovells supported us through. Key strengths are regulatory savvy, strategic advice, and working with other law firms (we gave them many opportunities to prove that skill, and they never let us down).’

‘Stephanie Gold is the best higher ed lawyer I’ve ever worked with; brilliant, calm, upbeat, collaborative, undaunted. Her political advice proved as sound as her legal advice, and she kept us on firm ground in complex governance matters. William Intner is an especially effective communicator, able to translate complex financial instruments for non-specialists like trustees and faculty. He also proved a top-notch advisor on all elements of our financial and business planning and transactions.’

Key clients

Harvard University

Yale University

Arizona State University

Yeshiva University

American Council on Education

American Public Education, Inc.

Carnegie Mellon University

University of Louisville

Duke University

University of Maryland College Park

New York University

Mills College

Penn Foster, Inc.

TPG The Rise Fund

National University System

Harvard University

Yale University

Arizona State University

Yeshiva University

American Council on Education

American Public Education, Inc.

Carnegie Mellon University

University of Louisville

Duke University

University of Maryland College Park

New York University

Mills College

Penn Foster, Inc.

TPG The Rise Fund

National University System

Work highlights

  • Representing Mills College and College officers in litigation brought by a current trustee, a former trustee and the College’s alumnae association.
  • Advising Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) across a wide range of education sector issues, including cybersecurity; government contracts and grants matters; scientific research integrity; international online education of students; drone use; and faculty and staff global employment under CMU programs.

King & Spalding LLP

At King & Spalding LLP, the higher education practice group brings together a strong bench across government investigations and healthcare to handle work in the academic medical center space. Now jointly led by managing partner of the Chicago office Zach Fardon and trial lawyer Andy Bayman in Atlanta, the team retains its expertise in accreditation matters for colleges and high-stakes whistleblower litigation. Also in Atlanta, Tish McDonald represents non-profits and higher education institutions in complex litigation, and specializes in fiduciary litigation. Former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins in Chicago has experience handling internal investigations. In Washington, DC, Mark Polston and Daniel Hettich are the key contacts for medical center matters. Floyd Newton has now retired.

Practice head(s):

Zach Fardon; Andy Bayman

Other key lawyers:

Tish McDonald; Patrick Collins; Mark Polston; Daniel Hettich

Key clients

Emory University

University of Vermont Medical Center

Akron General Medical Center

Botsford General Hospital

Carilion Medical Center

Cleveland Clinic Health System

Duke University Health System

Fairview Hospital

Florida Health Sciences Center

Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Medical University Hospital Authority

Vanderbilt University

Work highlights

  • Rrepresented Emory University in its consolidated COVID-19 tuition-refund class action litigation.
  • Represented The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) in its renegotiation of its long-term multi-billion dollar affiliation agreement with Harris County Hospital District.
  • Representing the accrediting body for the colleges and universities in the 11 Southern states in litigation, winning summary judgment in Atlanta Federal court for this client brought by Paine College located in Augusta, Georgia, who sued the client for its loss of accreditation.

McGuireWoods LLP

McGuireWoods LLP represents public and private colleges, universities, K-12 schools and academic medical centers across the full range of education law matters. Managed by Harrison Marshall in North Carolina, the team has been strengthened with the April 2021 arrival of litigator Farnaz Thompson from the U.S Department of Education in Washington DC. The practice has extensive experience handling government investigations before federal agencies, representing education institutions in employment related litigation and Title IX compliance work. Also in North Carolina, Mary Nash Rusher is the name for tax-exempt financing transactions for K-12 schools. In Virginia, Michele McKinnon has great experience advising public schools on tax and governance matters, while litigator Micah Schwartz defends colleges and universities in Title IX lawsuits.

Practice head(s):

Harrison Marshall

Other key lawyers:

Farnaz Thompson; Shelby Guilbert; Micah Schwartz; Michelle McKinnon; Mary Nash Rusher

Testimonials

‘I truly value what McGuireWoods LLP offers. They are always responsive, and they take care to ensure they understand our concerns to give us the appropriate guidance.’

Michele McKinnon is my main contact. Her knowledge of Non Profit Law and Higher ED in general is off the charts.’

Key clients

Washington & Lee University

Davidson College

Central Piedmont Community College

Liberty University

Appalachian State University

The Pennsylvania State University

Episcopal High School

Lake Norman Charter School

Work highlights

  • Advised Appalachian State University on the financing of a new residential living village that will eventually replace seven older dormitories on Appalachian’s campus.
  • Advising multiple K-12 schools, colleges and universities on COVID-19 federal, state and local law compliance, including issues regarding remote work, student and employee screening, COVID-19 testing, student and employee quarantine, face mask use, vaccination implementation, and student and accommodation requests.

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

Primarily based out of Washington DC, the practice at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP is now jointly managed by litigator Arthur Coleman  and Scott Palmer, and has a strong record acting in complex litigation and transactional matters. The group is well-versed in advising education boards and colleges on gender and sexual misconduct issues, including sexual harassment. Daniel Cohen in Atlanta is a key name, and has significant experience in gender issues, maintaining a busy pro-bono practice for student sexual assault survivors. Contacts in Atlanta also include Marquetta Bryan who litigates for schools on discrimination work. The firm’s affiliate consulting group EducationCounsel LLC remains active in policy for non-profit clients and academic institutions. Former co-head of the team Nina Gupta as well as Suzann Wilcox, both in Altanta, left the firm for Parker Poe in March 2022.

Practice head(s):

Arthur Coleman; Scott Palmer

Other key lawyers:

Daniel Cohen; Marquetta Bryan

Key clients

Fulton County School District

Atlanta Public Schools

Cobb County School District

Louisiana Board of Regents

Equable Institute

Education Trust

Societies Consortium on Sexual Harassment in STEMM

American Association for the Advancement of Science

National Association of State Approving Agencies (NASAA)

University of North Dakota

The College Board

Work highlights

  • Advised Fulton County Schools on a $1.2bn E-SPLOST (Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) capital program, funded by a voter-approved referendum, and recently successfully renewed the program for another five-year term.
  • Advised Louisiana Board of Regents (LBOR) and colleges and universities on all aspects of Title IX sexual misconduct matters, including policies and procedures, sexual misconduct investigations and adjudication trainings.
  • Representing the school district in Jane Doe v. Fulton County School District which concerns a 13-year-old female student, (who is deaf and mute) suing the school district for $7m in damages for sexual harassment and discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendment Act of 1972 and disability discrimination under Title 2 of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Norton Rose Fulbright

At Norton Rose Fulbright, the higher education practice group is singled out for its strength in medical education and holds leading national schools as key clients. Head of the healthcare group and practice co-chair Stacey Murphy in St. Louis advises hospitals and academic medical centers on corporate governance issues and regulatory work, whilst Andrew Roth ,who leads the healthcare practice in New York, is the name for billion-dollar transactional mandates and is recommended for accreditation matters – compliance with Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education remains a specialty. Practice co-chair Douglas Fried on the East Coast leads the infrastructure team and advises universities on P3 projects. In Texas, key contacts include Jerry Bell and senior counsel Jennifer McDaniel, who focuses on healthcare regulatory work. On the employment side, Mario A Barrera in San Antonio handles gender discrimination and sexual harassment matters.

Practice head(s):

Stacey Murphy; Douglas Fried

Other key lawyers:

Andrew Roth; Jerry Bell; Jennifer McDaniel; Mario A Barrera

Key clients

State University of New York Health Sciences University College of Medicine (SUNY Downstate)

University of Southern California

OU Medicine

University of New Mexico

Work highlights

  • Advised OU Medicine in connection with the integration of OU Physicians, the University of Oklahoma (University) faculty practice plan, into the OU Medicine system.
  • Advised the University of New Mexico on its institutional accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), and on the establishment of a new Residency in Neurosurgery.
  • Advising on the global patent portfolio management for a leading academic research institution, including more than 350 US and foreign patent filings.