- Among the first law firms in the United States to form a legal team dedicated to the education industry, Holland & Knight has one of the largest teams of education lawyers in the country today.
- Members of Holland & Knight's Education Team are ranked as leading lawyers in education law by nationally recognized publications, including the U.S. News - Best Lawyers "Best Law Firms" Guide and The Best Lawyers in America Guide.
- Our clients call upon us to handle critical court battles and cutting-edge issues at the intersection of law and education.
- Our Education Team functions as an outside general counsel's office for institutions without an in-house legal department.
Our Education Team provides comprehensive legal representation to a broad spectrum of clients from major universities to private elementary schools, including nationally renowned public and private universities, colleges, independent schools, school districts, charter schools, vocational and for-profit institutions, fraternities and sororities, accrediting agencies, museums, foundations and education technology companies.
Representation with a Mission
Our Education Team's mission is to utilize the diligence, ingenuity and sound judgment we have gained through our broad and deep experience in education law to defend the interests of educators and help them achieve their educational goals in creative and insightful ways.
Leaders in Education
To accomplish our mission, we draw upon the resources of our international law firm to address the myriad legal issues facing educational institutions. The core members of our team are leaders from varied legal disciplines who understand the unique nature and needs of educational institutions. Team members regularly work together to define best practices, counsel clients on critical legal issues and defend them in courts, arbitrations, mediations and before accrediting agencies, licensing bodies and government agencies.
To provide our clients with the best legal resources possible, our team actively recruits attorneys with special education law experience. Current team members include:
- former counsel to the Florida Department of Education and the Executive Office of the Governor
- former ombudsman for the U.S. Secretary of Education on disability rights issues
- former staff in the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights
- former Chief of Staff and Counsel to the Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education
- acting and interim General Counsels for private colleges
- former teachers and faculty members
- attorneys with graduate degrees in Education
- an editor of the Journal of College and University Law
- Select Counsel for United Educators
- members of the National Association of College and University Attorneys
- chairs of college and university law bar sections
The Advantage of Broad and Deep Experience in Education
The breadth and depth of our experience in education law distinguishes Holland & Knight and gives our clients a unique advantage. In addition, we also offer our clients comprehensive legal representation in matters that extend beyond traditional education law.
Partnering with experienced attorneys in various legal areas, our Education Team provides comprehensive analysis and counseling during crisis situations facing schools and colleges. Our attorneys work closely with risk managers and communications professionals to identify, assess and develop effective response plans for threats to the safety and welfare of educational communities, especially for matters involving sexual misconduct, threats or acts of violence, and financial malfeasance.
Title IX and Sexual Discrimination and Misconduct
Protecting students is a natural and important concern of educational institutions and governments. Consequently, we can expect continuing scrutiny and increasing regulation in matters of student safety. When assessing how to keep students safe, colleges and universities are challenged with pressing, and sometimes conflicting, demands raised by various constituencies, including students, parents, alumni and community members, government enforcement agencies, and outside interest groups and coalitions. We have worked with educational institutions in multiple capacities when they are faced with claims of sexual misconduct or assault. Our Education Team has the experience, dedication and sensitivity to assist colleges and universities in responding to each of these constituencies and in achieving each institution's particular safety and legal compliance goals.
Employment of Faculty and Staff
Our Education Team counsels educational institutions on employment policies and practices, including the drafting of faculty and staff handbooks, training, hiring, layoffs and terminations, internal grievance procedures, leaves of absences, accommodations, visas and immigration issues, and promotions and tenure. The team also defends educational institutions in employment-related cases in court and before federal and state agencies, especially cases of discrimination, harassment, retaliation and defamation.
Unions in Higher Education
We assist our education clients in all union matters, including training, union elections, representing clients before the NLRB and in arbitration, negotiating collective bargaining agreements, and counseling on day-to-day union matters and legal compliance. Union organizing efforts at colleges and universities are becoming more prevalent. While unions at colleges and universities historically have included campus safety, maintenance, food service workers and sometimes full-time faculty, unionization efforts in recent years have focused on adjuncts. Adjunct organizing is driven by concerns over compensation, benefits, workloads and job security. As these unionization efforts increase, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) continues to scrutinize employer policies and create new laws that challenge traditional views of labor relations.
Our Education Team drafts student disciplinary procedures and conduct codes, assists in the revising and updating of student handbooks and develops student sexual assault prevention guidelines. In addition, we counsel and train student affairs administrators, advise on student abroad programs and provide guidance on student financial aid, Title IX compliance, athletic programs, FERPA and other privacy issues and many other areas involving students.
Campus safety has become one of the foremost concerns of educational institutions. Our Education Team counsels clients on the Campus Security Act (Clery Act) compliance, emergency preparedness and risk management. We also draft threat to self and threat to others policies and work closely with campus security officers and administrators to assure best practices. When there is damage to property or injuries to employees, students or visitors, our team's seasoned litigators defend clients against claims of negligence and personal injury, including wrongful death, suicide and other catastrophic loss claims.
Merging, Acquiring or Closing Institutions
Educational institutions are confronting increasingly complex financial pressures, including fluctuating enrollments, ever-tightening and tuition-dependent operating budgets, rising property and labor costs, persistent development issues, and the challenge of obtaining and maintaining federal financial aid. When institutions of higher education face serious financial challenges, it is critically important for their leaders to have experienced legal guidance. Higher education is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the U.S. Consequently, combining or closing educational institutions requires extensive knowledge of regulatory requirements at federal, state and local levels, as well as with accrediting and licensing agencies. Holland & Knight's Education Team has successfully guided many educational institutions, both nonprofit and for-profit, through acquisitions, mergers and closings.
Our Education Team understands the unique "business" of operating educational institutions and appreciates the role that campus culture plays in many legal decisions. This sensitivity shapes and drives the legal advice our team provides on a wide variety of institutional issues, including contracts, leases, licensing, intellectual property, distance learning, academic freedom, governance, bylaws, construction, land use, zoning, charitable giving, taxes, foundations and change of control.
Our Education Team partners with clients to develop comprehensive legal compliance programs tailored to the particular needs of each institution. Specific compliance projects include legal auditing, defense of state or federal investigations, student financial aid operations, lending programs, recruiter compensation plans and many other compliance areas. We also advise on accreditation, registration, state and federal rule making and lobbying for institution-specific appropriations.
Athletic Conference Realignment
As a growing number of colleges and universities seek to move from one athletic conference to another, they find themselves considering a multitude of conference realignment legal issues, including those involving conference constitutions and bylaws, media contracts and the seemingly inevitable threat of litigation. Our Education Team has significant experience in this critical juncture of sports and law. For example, we advised a university in negotiations to move from a mid-major conference to a major new basketball conference and defended a university in litigation arising from its move from one major conference to another – obtaining summary judgment in the university's favor over the amount of the exit fee due to the university's former conference. In addition, while representing a leading conference in litigation against a departing member that has challenged the validity of the withdrawal payment due to the conference, we persuaded a state court in the departing university's own backyard to dismiss the antitrust claims filed there against the conference.
Our attorneys bring to bear years of hands-on experience advising colleges, universities and athletic conferences at the Division I, II and III levels. Our national footprint and skills in various legal disciplines enable us to assist institutions and conferences, regardless of the nature of the legal issue or where it arises. Our Education Team concentrates on advising and representing colleges, universities and athletic conferences with regard to the legal issues related to collegiate athletics. We understand that issues with intercollegiate athletics can have broad ramifications for an institution, ranging from Title IX concerns and NCAA compliance issues to private litigation and employment matters. These issues must be addressed in the context of an institution's simultaneous concerns for financial and reputational stability. Accordingly, we collaborate with institutions and athletic conferences to pursue the legal results that best achieve their individual goals.
Top-Rated Educational Resource
Our Education Team has repeatedly received national recognition for excellence. Several members are ranked as leading lawyers in education law, including a top tier ranking for Boston and Massachusetts education law by U.S. News - Best Lawyers "Best Law Firms" Guide and Best Lawyers of America Guide.
We provide added value to our clients by regularly organizing and participating in seminars and conferences related to education law and other legal issues pertinent to educational institutions. In addition, we frequently publish articles on topics of interest and importance to educators. Our electronic "Education Alerts" on breaking education law issues are especially popular with our clients.