Taft has a long and substantial history of counseling and representing educational institutions. Like any business or corporation, educational institutions have goals for maintaining a thriving, cost-effective and safe environment for their students, faculty, administration and employees. We bring expansive and pragmatic experience to our work with large and small public and private schools, colleges and universities, for-profit and not-for-profit institutes, libraries and museums, and institutional clinics, hospitals and health care institutions.
The questions, opportunities, challenges and problems these entities face generally require knowledge of several areas of the law, and sometimes involve conflicting regulatory directives. We know that coordinated team representation is fundamental to resolving complex legal issues, solving problems and efficiently accomplishing goals.
Our attorneys counsel and represent colleges and universities on numerous diverse issues in the following areas:
- Administrative and Corporate Matters
- Intellectual Property
- Employment & Labor / Faculty and Student Issues
- Charitable Planning and Dispute Resolution
- Foundations and Asset Management
- Construction Disputes
- Academic Medical Centers
Administrative and Corporate Matters
We have been involved in the acquisition and sale of university properties, including land use matters and intergovernmental agreements affecting the transfer of buildings and grounds, such as opening or closing campus locations and related utility and service contracts; tax issues and finance.
We provide counsel and representation regarding licensing and respective intellectual property rights of institutions and their employees concerning intellectual property developed by employees during the time of their employment, including the transfer of technology. We regularly provide counsel regarding the clearance and registration of trademarks, service marks, slogans and logos, copyright issues and advertising compliance and clearance. Taft also represents clients in IP infringement litigation, domain name dispute proceedings, trade secret violations and claims of false advertising and unfair competition.
Employment & Labor / Faculty and Student Issues
We represent private and public entities and institutions in connection with all aspects of employment issues, regulation, and discrimination, with specific experience in dispute resolution and litigation. Our work includes conducting internal investigations of alleged misconduct, litigation in federal and state courts involving those issues and alleged statutory and contract violations. Labor and employment issues include:
- State and federal claims of discrimination, harassment and retaliation involving Title VII.
- Labor and employment laws and regulations, including Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), among others.
- Faculty issues, including Academic Freedom, tenure denial and revocation, and collective bargaining.
- Student issues, including discrimination, misconduct and discipline, ADA and Title IX claims.
- Constitutional claims, including First Amendment.
- Rights of state government employees.
- §1983 actions.
We know how to work with school districts and state agencies to solve problems. Our attorneys have conducted and concluded landmark litigation for regional public schools and universities. Our creative and imaginative work translates our client goals into successful strategies in negotiation, settlement and litigation.
Charitable Planning and Dispute Resolution
For decades, we have worked with educational institutions and their donors in developing planned giving programs, including the establishment of endowed faculty chairs and scholarships for students, as well as structuring gifts and bequests to fund programs for restricted or general research. Attorneys in our Private Client and Tax groups advise donors on numerous tax-efficient gift and testamentary techniques, including creating and administering private foundations, pooled income funds, donor-advised funds, charitable lead and remainder trusts, life insurance planning and gifts of appreciated property. We also advise charitable organizations on applying for and maintaining tax exempt status.
Our attorneys are continuously involved in sophisticated estate planning for high net worth clients. A significant part of that practice concerns large gift donation planning, the establishment and maintenance of foundations and sophisticated planning involving charitable lead trusts, remainder trusts and philanthropic funds. Our attorneys are particularly skilled at representing educational institutions in disputes involving the issue of donor intent in creating trusts that benefit an institution.
Foundations and Asset Management
For higher-education foundations, the firm routinely reviews and advises state-supported universities on the legal issues involved in alternative investments being acquired by the university (e.g., hedge funds, private equity funds). In addition to reviewing legal documents related to investments, our attorneys often draft and negotiate side letter agreements with counsel for the funds to address the specific legal needs of the university, such as the inability to indemnify, sovereign immunity issues and other matters. We also prepare an advice letter for each involved university regarding our review of the investment documents and discussions with counsel for the fund.
We advise higher-education foundations on critical legal matters related to investments and asset management. Services include:
- Review of legal documents related to investments.
- Advice concerning alternative investments acquisition (e.g., hedge funds, private equity funds).
- Drafting and negotiating side letter agreements.
- Addressing specific legal needs, such as sovereign immunity issues and other matters.
- Drafting advice letters regarding investment documents.
In serving colleges and universities, we are acutely aware of the multi-faceted challenges — from financial risk to adverse public opinion — that each legal matter brings to those institutions. We know that legal issues within the higher-education realm require a highly-disciplined and strategic approach. We draw upon the wealth of experience within the law firm’s many practice areas to assist higher-education institutions in every legal situation they entrust to us.
We have represented and advised large state and private universities on major construction projects, negotiating and drafting design, construction and equipment procurement contracts, providing representation in bid disputes, contractor claims and surety takeovers, assisting with statutory and regulatory compliance, and providing representation on mediation, arbitration and litigation of claims and representation in complex federal litigation. Services include:
- Negotiating and drafting design, construction and equipment-procurement contracts.
- Litigation arising from contract negotiations.
- Representation in and advice concerning bid disputes.
- Prosecution and defense of design and construction defect claims.
- Prosecution and defense of prompt-pay claims.
- Representation on surety takeovers.
- Representation regarding mechanics liens, property damage and insurance coverage.
- Assistance with statutory and regulatory compliance.
- Analysis, preparation, presentation and defense of design and construction claims.
- Representation on mediation, arbitration and litigation of claims.
Academic Medical Centers
In conjunction with the Health and Sciences practice group, we have represented both public and private institutions in their negotiation of affiliation agreements, clinical trial agreements and issues and grant administration issues.
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