Phil Catanzano is a senior counsel in Holland & Knight's Boston office. He is a member of the Education Team, and focuses his practice on advising higher education clients on a wide range of issues, including harassment or sexual violence on campus, intercollegiate athletics, and the laws impacting students with disabilities. Mr. Catanzano also advises clients with regard to government investigations, legal compliance, campus safety and security, and other matters involving campus life. He is a frequent speaker on issues involving higher education law and can provide customized training to meet the needs of our clients. 

Prior to joining Holland & Knight, Mr. Catanzano was an attorney with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for eight years. In that role, he investigated cases in a broad range of matters, including:

Intercollegiate Athletics

Mr. Catanzano led investigations of the intercollegiate athletic programs of several New England institutions at the Division I, Division II, and Division III level. This usually included programmatic reviews of each component of the athletic programs involved, including the facilities the program used. Once the investigations were completed, Mr. Catanzano continued collaborating with the institutions, in some instances facilitating the growth of the athletic program through discussions with league and conference representatives, and in other instances advising with regard to institutional reporting responsibilities. Outside of his role at OCR, Mr. Catanzano has also provided guidance with regard to the NCAA rules and its enforcement process. Since his arrival at Holland & Knight, Mr. Catanzano has provided institutions guidance with regard to the NCAA rules and its enforcement process, as well as the reporting requirements of the Equity in Athletics Data Analysis. He has also conducted internal investigations into athletic programs (e.g., sexual misconduct within an athletic department, hazing) as well as conducting internal reviews of athletic departments.

Sexual Violence on Campus

Mr. Catanzano led investigations of several higher education institutions that were alleged to be out of compliance with Title IX with regard to their response to sexual violence on campus. These investigations ranged from broad compliance reviews that analyzed every aspect of an institution’s response mechanism to instances of sexual violence or harassment, to specific allegations of sexual violence or harassment filed by individual students or employees.

Accessibility on Campus

Mr. Catanzano led several investigations and mediations involving institutional accessibility for students with disabilities.  These matters focused on campus wide physical accessibility (incorporating various accessibility standards as defined by federal law), as well as program accessibility, e.g., the accommodation process, web accessibility, and other policies that impacted the disabled.  Specific cases focused on the physical accessibility of urban and rural campuses across New England, institutional accommodation of service animal, allergy, and other disability-related requests, and institutional responses to students that may constitute a threat to themselves or others.  

Different Treatment and Harassment on Campus

Mr. Catanzano led several investigations into allegations that institutions treated students differently on the basis of their race, gender, ethnicity, disability, or sexual orientation.  Many of these investigations ultimately focused on the broader atmosphere that existed on campus and the actions of individual institutional actors.  Following these investigations, as well as the sexual violence, intercollegiate athletics, and disability-related cases referenced above, Mr. Catanzano commonly returned to campus to provide specifically tailored training to administrators, faculty, staff, and students. 

In addition to providing comprehensive guidance to clients on these and other matters, Mr. Catanzano advises on strategies for managing state or federal investigations, data retention procedures and campus security. He also provides training and counsels clients regarding their rights and obligations under the Clery Act, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and various other privacy statutes, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and NCAA and U.S. Department of Education rules and reporting requirements for intercollegiate athletics, among others.

On behalf of the U.S. Department of Education, Mr. Catanzano presented regularly to college administration, faculty, coaches, and students regarding institutional rights and obligations under various federal laws. The subject matter of the presentations included compliance with Title IX with regard to both athletics and sexual violence on campus, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, general presentations on race and gender discrimination, and general overviews regarding the OCR's jurisdiction and investigative process. 

Before joining the U.S. Department of Education, Mr. Catanzano spent several years practicing in the Boston office of an Am Law 100 law firm, focusing on intellectual property litigation. His litigation experience prior to joining Holland & Knight included successful trials, appeals, and mediations in both state and federal courts, as well as the drafting of amicus briefs on behalf of clients.

Mr. Catanzano teaches graduate level courses on K-12 and college/university law as an adjunct professor at Boston College Law School and its Lynch Graduate School of Education, as well as Harvard University.


  • Boston College Law School, J.D.
  • Boston College Lynch School of Education, M.Ed.
  • Northeastern University, B.S.
Bar Admissions/Licenses
  • Massachusetts
Court Admissions
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts
  • Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services, Appointed Member, 2013-2016
  • Boston Bar Association, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Section, Member, 2008-2016; Chair, 2014-2016
  • National Association of College and University Attorneys
  • Sports Lawyers Association
  • Adaptive Sports, New England, Board of Directors
  • Youth Advocacy Foundation, Board of Directors
Honors & Awards
  • The Best Lawyers in America guide, Education Law, 2018-2020


Speaking Engagements