Institutions of higher learning are extraordinarily complex organizations with legal needs which span a wide array of substantive areas, including student conduct/Title IX policy and enforcement, labor and employment law, student recruitment and retention, federal and state compliance and reporting, information security and data privacy, physical, online and virtual accessibility, intellectual property, protection of academic freedom, solicitation and enforcement of gifts and charitable pledges, facility construction, and many others.
The Walsh Education team collaborates with clients to ensure that each institution’s needs are addressed in a fashion consistent with its mission and existing principles and policies. Walsh’s long-standing relationships with colleges and universities, independent secondary schools, and preparatory schools enable our lawyers to work side-by-side with senior administrators and in-house counsel to find practical solutions to multifaceted legal issues. Emblematic of the firm’s commitment to higher education, attorneys at Walsh have served college and university clients as interim general counsel, adjunct faculty, members of governing boards, educational consultants, and alumni representatives. We value the opportunity to be a resource both in day-to-day operations and in addressing unique educational challenges.
Walsh lawyers have an enviable record of success representing higher education clients in court and administrative litigation of all types, involving administrators, students, faculty, staff, donors, vendors, and federal and state regulators. When legal claims arise, we provide efficient, cost-effective representation based on our collective knowledge and experience handling education-related matters. We routinely resolve lawsuits and administrative charges consistent with our clients’ strategic objectives. When necessary, we zealously defend client interests in state and federal courts. Walsh’s Education team has successfully obtained numerous summary dismissals and jury verdicts in favor of our education clients. Walsh also serves as defense counsel in higher education putative class actions and collective actions under federal labor laws.
Recognizing what matters most to our clients, Walsh also provides comprehensive counseling to education clients to help place institutions in the strongest position possible before the potential for litigation arises. Our services include problem-solving alongside our clients as issues arise, as well as implementing policy and process improvements to better prepare for the future.
Colleges and universities are unique in that they employ a wide spectrum of employees with varied job responsibilities, requiring a strong relationship between the human resources and legal professionals serving the institution. Walsh attorneys advise education clients on a broad range of labor and employment matters, including compliance with state and federal employment laws, policy development, faculty handbook and tenure processes, executive compensation and benefits, and collective bargaining/organizing campaigns. Not only do we advise our clients throughout their employees’ lifecycle to avoid potential claims, we also routinely represent higher education institutions in employment litigation and charges before state and federal administrative agencies. While a rare event in academia, our attorneys have also successfully prosecuted withdrawal of tenure proceedings on behalf of our higher education clients.
Walsh lawyers provide core legal support to education clients in a range of other areas that span the firm’s practice disciplines. A recent example is the firm’s work as defense counsel in the NCAA Student-Athlete Concussion Injury Litigation (Single School, Single Sport) putative class action pending in the Northern District of Illinois, and monitoring of putative class and collective actions claiming college athletes are employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act and state wage & hour laws.
Walsh also provides education-specific knowledge and expertise including:
Walsh regularly represents colleges and universities in real estate and business transactions, land use issues, construction matters, environmental concerns, and executive benefits and compensation issues, and provides counseling related to ethics issues, including the fiduciary responsibilities of board members and other executive staff.
Finally, the Walsh Bankruptcy, Reorganization and Creditor’s Rights practice group supports education clients when key vendors encounter solvency problems, working assiduously to ensure that work for the client continues where applicable as court proceedings advance.
Walsh offers comprehensive Title IX services to ensure that our clients are compliant with statutory and regulatory requirements and that their policies and practices will withstand the scrutiny of government officials and future challenges. We offer specific assessments and policy review tailored to meet each school’s needs and are well-prepared to advise higher education institutions in navigating the new complex regulatory requirements for Title IX sexual misconduct grievance proceedings. In addition, Walsh attorneys are a valuable resource when an alleged incident is reported. We have extensive experience serving as impartial Title IX investigators. Walsh attorneys also represent institutions of higher education in Title IX litigation and in connection with U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights Title IX complaints and investigations.
Workplace and other compliance concerns often require institutions to seek the assistance of outside counsel to conduct an internal investigation. Walsh’s Education team works closely with senior institutional administrators to undertake these efforts in sexual misconduct and discrimination matters as well as matters involving allegations of research or other academic misconduct, financial improprieties, violations of federal and state law, and other improper workplace conduct. Walsh attorneys quickly undertake internal investigative matters to provide institutions with the timely information necessary to make informed decisions while conserving institutional resources.
The legal and regulatory landscape governing the way institutions handle student affairs has changed dramatically. Issues involving students have the potential to create significant risk for reputational damage and legal exposure. Walsh’s Education team advises clients in cases involving claims of discrimination, retaliation, breach of contract, and constitutional violations. Our attorneys have decades of experience reviewing and revising student codes of conduct, handbooks, and academic policies.
Walsh lawyers are often called upon to resolve sensitive issues relating to the enforcement of charitable pledges, remainder interests under charitable trusts, and other inter vivos and testamentary instruments, as well as contractual commitments relating to naming rights for university facilities and programs. When necessary to protect an institution’s legitimate expectations, Walsh prosecutes legal actions, often in New Jersey’s chancery courts, and has secured favorable outcomes for our clients.
Colleges and universities are responsible for collecting and maintaining a daunting amount of protected data regarding their employees, students, alumni and countless others. Walsh attorneys help higher education clients develop information security policies and assist with data breach responses, consistent with each institution’s needs and capabilities. In addition, a member of the Walsh Higher Education team is CIPP/US certified and thus uniquely positioned to advise institutions regarding developments in information security and data privacy regulation and compliance.