McAfee & Taft’s Education Industry Group is comprised of attorneys from a broad range of disciplines who have experience serving the sophisticated legal and business needs of public, private, nonprofit, for-profit and religious educational institutions of all sizes.
Our clients include public and private colleges and universities, boards of regents and boards of trustees, university and school foundations, university alumni associations, K-12 public school systems, private primary and secondary schools, religious-affiliated schools, virtual/online schools, charter schools, boards of education, educational research organizations, vocational and trade schools, technology training centers, arts education organizations, and civic and philanthropic organizations that provide or support educational programs.
Our understanding of the unique needs, concerns and challenges facing schools, colleges and universities reflects decades of experience representing and advising educational institutions and other industry clients in a broad range of business and legal matters. It is enhanced by our personal, professional and community experiences working with such organizations. Collectively, our lawyers have served as adjunct faculty at law schools and other institutions of higher education and have devoted countless hours of their time serving in leadership positions on numerous educational governing and advisory boards and committees.
Comprehensive Legal and Business Services
Labor & Employment
Human resources – administrators, faculty and staff– are the lifeblood of any educational institution. Our labor and employment attorneys understand this and work with educational clients to maintain and promote a legally compliant working environment that is safe and welcoming for employees and students alike. Our attorneys routinely counsel clients about federal and state employment law compliance, share best practices for avoiding legal disputes, and train employees and supervisors on a myriad of workplace issues. Our work in this area has included handling Title VII discrimination and harassment claims, assisting universities in properly classifying employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act, addressing ADA and accommodation issues for the disabled, and advising religious-affiliated schools on how to properly apply the “ministerial exception” to specific professors, teachers and other employees. We also assist educational institutions with immigration and visa matters.
For educational institutions that receive federal funding, we advise them of their additional obligations and responsibilities under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972; review, audit and assist in the implementation of updated Title IX policies and procedures; and represent and advise clients in Title IX investigations into sexual harassment and misconduct.
Employee Benefit and Executive Compensation Plans
Our executive compensation and employee benefits attorneys represent and counsel many of the area’s largest schools, colleges and major universities in matters related to the design, drafting, and administration of group health and welfare plans, qualified retirement plans, and executive compensation plans and have particular experience advising clients on 403(b) defined contribution plans, 457(b) deferred compensation plans, defined benefit pension plans, and excess benefit plans. We also counsel clients on legal compliance, provide training to plan fiduciaries, advise plan sponsors on strategies for reducing costs and streamlining the administration of plans, and litigate claims filed by plan participants against their plan sponsors.
For governmental employers such as public universities, we also assist in the development and implementation of special supplemental retirement plan vehicles designed to attract and retain top administrators and other highly compensated academic and athletic personnel.
Business Issues and Public-Private Partnerships
Our transactional lawyers assist educational institutions, their foundations and related entities in a broad range of business matters, including organizational formation and structuring, board governance and management, program development, contract negotiating and drafting, business transactions and financing, fundraising and donor solicitation, grants and grant-making, planned giving, and investment management.
The firm’s work in the area of highly complex transactions includes representing a large public university in a public-private partnership (PPP) to implement a long-term operations and management arrangement covering the university’s utilities systems.
Real Estate, Construction and Development
Our lawyers have extensive experience working with educational institutions, their foundations, and related entities in a broad range of complex transactions involving the sale, acquisition, construction, development, financing, leasing, and renovation of real estate, including school buildings and classrooms, mixed-use residential buildings, multi-family housing, retail shopping, office buildings, parks and recreational facilities.
We also have particular experience representing clients in acquiring, redeveloping or renovating former public school properties for use as a private school, fine arts charter high school, private university law school, and multi-family development.
Nonprofit and Tax Law
McAfee & Taft’s Education Industry Group includes highly experienced tax and business attorneys who have specific experience representing and advising nonprofit schools and universities and their constituent bodies and related entities in legal and business matters specifically applicable to 501(c)(3) organizations. Our experience includes counseling on special exemptions, day-to-day tax compliance matters, unrelated business income tax, sales and use tax liabilities, state and local taxation, ad valorem taxes, planned giving and investments, and employment tax issues. The firm’s tax lawyers also have experience representing institutions of higher learning in CEP audits and in assisting educational foundations and their subsidiaries in obtaining business incentives for special development projects.
Protecting and Commercializing Intellectual Property Assets
Institutions of higher education are hotbeds for innovation and creativity, and our firm’s intellectual property attorneys are extremely well-versed in working with colleges and universities and their related entities, including research facilities and museums, in protecting, commercializing and managing their IP assets and brands. We offer comprehensive services in all areas of patent, trademark, copyright and trade secret law and litigation, and have special expertise negotiating and crafting a wide range of agreements, including sponsored research agreements, ancillary consulting agreements, and licensing agreements for the use of trademarks, copyrights, technology, software and other inventions. We also assist university spin-off companies in a broad range of matters, from start to market.
Litigation and Dispute Resolution
- Intellectual Property – The firm assists educational institutions in protecting and enforcing their rights in patented discoveries and technology, trademarked products and services, copyrighted works, confidential and proprietary trade secrets, negotiated license agreements, and other business agreements involving intellectual property assets.
- Commercial Disputes – With more than 80 trial lawyers, McAfee & Taft boasts considerable experience, expertise and bench strength helping clients resolve a broad range of business disputes through aggressive advocacy and strenuous negotiations, trials, arbitration and mediation. Issues common to the industry include those involving licensing agreements, contracts, personal injury claims, securities, financing, and real estate and construction disputes.
- Investigations and Audits – Our experience includes assisting universities in conducting highly sensitive internal investigations, advising them in responding to external investigations and audits by governmental authorities, and developing policies and procedures to reduce their overall risk and liability.
McAfee & Taft’s healthcare lawyers provide a full range of regulatory, transactional and litigation support to major universities and their affiliated medical schools, research facilities, and hospitals. We routinely assist such clients in licensing and regulatory matters, master affiliation agreements, certification and accreditation, physician and medical staff relationships, tax-exempt status matters, HIPAA, reimbursement, contracting, Medicare/Medicaid fraud and abuse, physician self-referral matters, health plan contracting, network development, physician employment, medical records matters and antitrust.
As other business and legal needs arise, the firm will draw upon the resources and talents of all of the firm’s lawyers to service our education industry clients.