HSE’s Higher Education Group has extensive legal experience, with a perspective that goes well beyond the legal question. The breadth and depth of our knowledge as legal counsel is enhanced by our experiences inside higher education.
In addition to understanding higher education law from the inside, our team understands higher education culture and that each institution’s culture is unique. We collaborate with our clients to quickly become well-versed in each campus’s ethos and parlance to ensure a harmonized approach that honors the clients’ priorities and values and results in efficient communication, productive problem-solving, and constructive partnerships. It is not uncommon for our higher education clients to express their appreciation with: “You get us.”
As the regulatory web expands and intersects, we pay constant attention to compliance and risk management. We work closely with our clients to ensure that their policies and practices are up-to-date and defensible. We know that campuses can be faced with serious issues requiring immediate action; we are available around the clock.
Even with strong risk management and litigation avoidance strategies, higher education institutions face the prospect of litigation. We are skilled in all types of litigation and agency investigations and are highly effective partners in all manner of litigation. When needed, our experienced litigators expertly evaluate claims, develop litigation and resolution strategies, and bring and defend against legal claims in court.
Countless matters and questions arise in higher education institutions that do not occur in other organizations. We understand these differences. Many matters demanding quick and comprehensive advice implicate multiple policies and multiple divisions. We know when and how to collaborate across functional areas. Numerous matters also require quick assessment of the applicability of myriad statutes as some require immediate action. We recognize the need for urgent, thorough analysis.
We work with our higher education clients and strive to provide responsive, tailored, practical, cost-effective legal advice in the following areas:
Complying with State and Federal Governmental Rules
Every office on campus must find time in the day and money in the budget to ensure compliance with the ever-expanding list of laws that put federal dollars and college resources at risk. These areas of regulation include:
Getting Business Done
Colleges and universities are not-for-profit entities, unique in some respects and typical in many others. Our legal services associated with non-profits include:
Responding to Crises and Managing High Profile Events
A simple event can become a crisis in the matter of minutes; an incident can be reported on social media before you know it has occurred. We work with clients 24/7 as they respond to critical campus incidents, with an eye toward identifying and mitigating the full range of risks and developing strategies to address a multitude of possible outcomes. Areas requiring this type of immediate attention include:
Navigating Other Areas Unique to Higher Education
There are countless matters and questions that arise in higher education institutions that simply don’t arise in other organizations. We have worked inside higher education and have deep understanding of these differences and because of this, we have perspectives that go well beyond just the legal question. Our work includes the following:
Complying with Title IX and New York State’s Enough is Enough
Given the rapidly-evolving caselaw and regulatory landscape, the national media attention, and the importance of preventing and addressing sexual assault on college campuses, we highlight our experience in Title IX and Enough is Enough below:
Day-to-Day Compliance includes:
Title IX Investigations
Timely, thorough, and legally compliant investigations are vital. Missteps can create liability, unwanted publicity, and controversy. Federal and state agencies and courts can call into question your investigation practices and outcomes. Given our experience conducting investigations (or guiding our clients in doing so), we can quickly focus on the pertinent issues and develop an investigation strategy aimed at resolving the issue in a thorough and equitable manner.
Our approach to sexual misconduct investigations is to treat students, faculty, and staff equitably and with respect and sensitivity while remaining objective and neutral. Our professional yet personable style encourages parties and witnesses to help us obtain the most complete set of facts possible so the decision regarding responsibility is well-informed and defensible. Our investigation approach is grounded in our significant knowledge of Title IX and best practices in conducting Title IX investigations.
Our Title IX team shares your commitment to thorough, impartial, and compassionate investigations. Our Title IX investigations commence with analysis of the allegations to develop an investigation plan in consultation with the Title IX Coordinator and, if applicable, a co-investigator. We interview the parties and witnesses, identify and meet with others with potentially relevant information, collect documentary and electronic information, visit incident scenes as needed, and prepare interview summaries and investigative reports in keeping with each institution’s format and style. We advise all individuals with whom we meet about available resources and supports, the institution’s policy against retaliation, and make connections with and draw upon the institution’s support resources as called for in each case.
Improving Processes and Policies
Over the past decade(s) we have seen regulation of higher education explode, a trend every commentator expects to continue. We work with colleges on reviewing, refining, and developing policies that both support the institution’s mission and values and develop a framework for compliance. In addition, we work across divisions, departments, and with Boards of Trustees to evaluate the effectiveness of policies, ensure their consistent application, and identify areas for additional discussion and policy development. As compliance moves to the forefront of every role on campus, conversations regarding policy management systems are increasingly important. We are adept at facilitating and supporting these critical initiatives on college campuses.
Developing Competencies Through Compliance Training
As highly regulated entities, institutions of higher education must ensure compliance to receive federal funds, manage risk, and avoid lawsuits and negative publicity. Targeted and pragmatic training focused on current law, policy, and guidance is the only method to ensure compliance with the myriad areas subject to governmental regulation. From “training the trainer” to direct delivery of content, we can help design programs meaningful to your campus. The breadth and depth of our knowledge as legal counsel is enhanced by our faculty, administrator, and other roles inside higher education. This knowledge base allows us to offer practical and highly cost-effective training programs in all areas relevant to higher education.