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Education

Overview

Parker Poe represents education institutions in every type of legal matter that comes before them. Our understanding of the unique needs of schools and colleges comes from years of experience and a cross-discipline practice which includes attorneys who have deep experience in specialized legal areas that are important to education clients. Our clients have included every type of education institution – public and private colleges and universities, K-12 public school districts, private schools and charter schools. In 2022, Parker Poe added 17 experienced education attorneys to its Atlanta office, making this practice one of the largest and most active in the Southeast.

We have a politically savvy team that is a close observer of the political, regulatory and cultural forces that impact today's schools as never before, and we help clients navigate sensitive issues. The team interacts with local, state and federal regulatory agencies, administrative tribunals and federal courts, and influences education policy and shares best practices through thought leadership. Together, we devise practical and flexible solutions for the increasingly complex matters that affect operations today and our education client’s success tomorrow so that they can retain focus on their core mission of educating students.

Areas of Focus

Outside General Counsel

Colleges and universities sometimes turn to our outside or "virtual" counsel program, which goes beyond the traditional in-house general counsel model. Our outside GC provides legal advice to the board and leaders of an educational institution while ensuring access to all the legal specialties that are needed to run an institution efficiently. The outside GC also can serve as a bridge to creating a permanent in-house department. This arrangement can be set up with alternative fee structures that give the client more predictability in budgeting for legal expenses.

Experience:

  • We are outside general counsel for a public school district with more than 250,000 students.

College Athletics

We represent college athletic departments in all legal matters, with an understanding that they have millions of dollars at stake in business dealings such as intellectual property and licensing, must comply with changing regulatory regimes such as Title IX and NCAA rules and often are financing new facilities.

  • Provide strategic planning for new projects.
  • Advise on Title IX compliance, investigations and litigation for athletes, coaches and administrators.
  • Help clients and athletes pursue opportunities and set up compliance policies for name, image and likeness contracts.
  • Consult on NCAA compliance, investigations and appeals.
  • Guide clients through construction and finance matters.
  • Advise on licensing and intellectual property.
  • Lead clients through changing conference affiliations and sports offerings.
  • Advise on legal aspects related to alternative revenue streams.
  • Represent institutions in negotiating and preparing coaching and executive contracts.
  • Address pay equity, wage and hour issues, compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and matters before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

K-12 Public and Private Schools

We work with elected officials, superintendents, and administrators to help clients meet the challenges that are unique to educating America’s children.

  • Draft and oversee legislation and policy.
  • Negotiate and draft contracts.
  • Guide schools through the accreditation process and resolve possible issues.
  • Advise on executive compensation issues.
  • Represent schools in litigation matters.
  • Advise on day-to-day operational management.

Charter Schools

The firm has a long history representing charter schools in the Southeast and beyond, and we have counseled businesses involved in the advancement of educational initiatives.

  • Leveraging the law to maximize academic and operational performance
  • Develop innovative programming
  • School choice options
  • Community outreach models

Student Matters

We work with schools on a wide array of legal matters involving their students.

  • Draft policies, train, investigate complaints, defend and oversee compliance related to Title IX.
  • Guide clients through Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and privacy matters for students.
  • Advise on First Amendment issues, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and constitutional law issues, including free speech rights and religious expression.
  • Represent clients in hearings and appeals for student discipline related to bullying, cyberbullying, behavior problems, social media issues and other matters.
  • Draft policies for social media that protect staff and students.
  • Provide guidance related to special education and disability matters, including early learning initiatives, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Individualized Education Programs (IEP) disputes and due process hearings, and other student litigation.
  • Address parental rights and advocacy matters.

Experience

  • We have handled more than 250 special education disputes before the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), administrative agencies and federal courts.
  • Appeals
  • Student discipline
  • College – level

Public Finance in Education

We are bond counsel for 14 of the 16 universities in the University of North Carolina system and many private colleges and universities. Our clients include research universities, nationally ranked liberal arts colleges, and regional colleges and universities. As with our other focus areas, we work with banks and underwriters on public offerings and other finance transactions for institutions of higher education. We have served as bond counsel for the State of North Carolina, special tax counsel to the State of South Carolina and as bond counsel for hundreds of local governments. Chambers & Partners ranks our public finance practice Band 1 in North Carolina.

Experience:

  • First unenhanced tax increment financing completed in North Carolina.
  • First county tax increment financing in South Carolina.
  • First bond financing for a North Carolina charter school.
  • First commercial paper financing for governmental units in North Carolina.
  • First installment purchase revenue bond financing for a school district in South Carolina.
  • First financing for a solid waste authority under North Carolina legislation allowing counties to create solid waste authorities.

Disability Law

The firm has a long history representing charter schools in the Southeast and beyond, and we have counseled businesses involved in the advancement of educational initiatives.

  • Early learning initiatives for disabled and non-disabled students
  • Develop innovative programming
  • Disability/ADA compliance and defense
  • Contentious IEP and 504 meetings
  • OCR investigations
  • Best practices training and procedural development

Internal Investigations in Education

We help educators understand the underlying allegations and evidence in internal investigations by building an investigative strategy, conducting an independent investigation, providing conclusions and recommended courses of action and, if appropriate, working with relevant regulators and law enforcement. Our attorneys have worked with education clients facing prosecution or government investigations, both state and federal. In addition, we counsel clients by designing and implementing compliance and detection policies to identify and avoid risks. We work quietly on internal matters that never receive public attention, often achieving resolutions that reduce exposure to negative publicity.

Experience:

  • Handled high-profile internal investigations involving campus protests and athletic departments that were the subject of extensive media coverage.
  • Conducted extremely sensitive internal investigations involving allegations of sexual assault on campuses.
  • Handled internal investigations related to employment, faculty tenure, Department of Education inquiries and other issues. ​​​​
  • Offered advice and representation in internal disciplinary board hearings and procedures involving students, faculty and staff, as well as special student life issues.

Employment, Immigration and Executive Compensation

Our Chambers-ranked employment team is experienced in representing education institutions of every size in virtually every type of employment and labor matter, including litigation, employee benefits, tax, immigration, legislative representation and structuring contracts for highly paid employees such as administrators and coaches. We routinely practice before a variety of federal and state agencies that administer employment laws and regulations, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and equivalent state fair employment practices agencies, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, and federal and state departments of labor.

Experience:

  • Served as employment and technology counsel for Central Piedmont Community College.
  • Served as lead counsel for the prosecution of more than 150 employee discipline matters arising from a widely publicized cheating scandal.
  • Handled faculty tenure and contract renewal/non-renewal issues, including internal administrative proceedings and constitutional issues affecting public institutions.
  • Drafted and revised student, faculty and staff handbooks.
  • Provided general employment representation, including defense of Department of Education inquiries, administrative charges and litigation, as well as human resource counseling and internal investigations.
  • Provided employee benefits representation on such matters as 403(b) and other retirement programs, 457 and non-qualified executive compensation plans, executive compensation determinations and documentation, tax-exemption issues (including compliance with intermediate sanctions rules and special rules applicable to church-related plans), and medical and other welfare plans.
  • Handled visa and immigration matters affecting students, faculty and staff.
  • Advised on compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Governance and Policy

Compliance and risk management always are evolving issues for education institutions. Over the past several years, we have advised these clients on managing the constantly changing COVID-19 protocols and the increasing dangers of cyberattacks, data security breaches, student privacy violations and a renewed focus on the First Amendment rights of students and teachers. Our goal always is to keep clients ahead of these issues with policies that anticipate a changing regulatory and legal landscape, while providing a vigorous approach to resolving problems.

Litigation in Education

Parker Poe has the experience and resources to defend claims in any forum and is Chambers ranked in litigation. We advise clients to take an aggressive posture on claims as a deterrent to unwarranted litigation and to facilitate an early resolution of lawsuits before incurring the substantial costs and administrative headaches associated with litigation. When appropriate, we also assist clients with mediation, arbitration and other alternative dispute resolution options.

Experience:

  • Parker Poe is select counsel in North Carolina for United Educators Insurance, a specialized liability insurance carrier for colleges, universities and independent schools.
  • Obtained dismissal on behalf of our client in the trial court, affirmed at the U.S. Court of Appeals, and then successfully opposed a petition of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court by relying on a complex issue involving offensive nonmutual collateral estoppel.
  • Defended educational institutions against contractual, personal injury and other claims brought by persons inside or outside of the college, university or school community.
  • Acted as special litigation counsel for colleges and universities in matters of statewide importance such as the successful defense of North Carolina's tuition reimbursement program for private universities.
  • Responded to inquiries and complaints involving Title VI and Title IX issues, as well as other federal statutory or regulatory requirements.

Intellectual Property in Education

Parker Poe's Chambers-ranked intellectual property practice advises education clients on protecting and monetizing intellectual property assets, including team and university brands and faculty research. The education team includes board-certified specialists in trademark law, registered U.S. patent attorneys and lawyers recognized by their peers in the premier guides to the legal profession. We have built a significant depth of knowledge in trademarks, patents, copyrights, IT contracts, trade secrets and other areas of intellectual property. Our attorneys have assisted colleges and universities with registration, maintenance, protection and defense of trademarks and copyrights, and helped universities maximize the benefits of their intellectual property assets through licensing, donation, sale, technology transfer and other creative methods.

Government Relations & Lobbying

Parker Poe has a proven track record helping clients successfully navigate the halls of government at the federal, state and local levels. Our bipartisan team understands how government operates and works with each of our clients to develop a lobbying strategy with a clear objective and outcome.

Experience:

  • Lobbied before the North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia Legislatures on issues of critical importance to public and private colleges, universities and schools.

Campus Improvements, Expansion & Development

Our team assists education institutions with the full cycle of real estate services, including acquisition and sale of property, zoning, due diligence, title examinations, development, insurance, funding, construction, leasing and asset management. Our Chambers-ranked real estate team has more than 50 attorneys dedicated to development services and we have specific experience in the mechanisms that colleges and universities often utilize such as public-private partnerships for developing campus improvements.

Experience:

  • Advised Duke University and Duke University Hospital in connection with new construction and renovation projects, as well as supplier disputes.
  • Advised North Carolina State University in connection with the development of Centennial Campus, including potential public-private partnerships by the university to benefit students researchers, public agencies and businesses.
  • Provided counsel to a university in an arrangement with its foundation in the development and lease of multiple student housing projects.
  • Advised a university in connection with the design and construction of a central energy plant resulting in a positive resolution for the university.

Cybersecurity and Data Privacy

Cybersecurity and data privacy are top-of-mind risks for all organizations and present enormous challenges for school management – from cybersecurity threats to an ever-changing regulatory regime.

Our team members have earned certifications from the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), which provides the global gold standard for data privacy certifications. We help education clients respond to ransomware and other cyberattacks, with attention to federal and state compliance for breaches and limiting the risks of litigation.

We offer a special monitoring service to keep our clients informed on the latest state, federal and international developments on data protection that impact educational institutions. We extend this service on a fixed-fee basis as part of a broad working relationship on data protection. Data protection begins with individual behavior, and we also offer a training program for employees and managers to help them adopt best practices that reduce the risks of data incidents.

Tax in Education

We advise schools on the full scope of tax issues they face. This includes assisting donors with gifts that are part of wealth and estate planning, the tax aspects of employee compensation and benefits, tax-favorable investments, business income and bond financing. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 contained several provisions that affect schools, including taxes on endowments in certain circumstances. Our tax practice, ranked Band 1 in North Carolina, follows all such changes in tax laws and advises our education clients on how they and employees, students and donors are affected.

Representative Experience

  • Represents college and university presidents and boards.
  • Provides significant advisory services regarding executive compensation and evaluation for presidents and high level university officers.
  • Serves as bond counsel for 14 of the 16 universities in the University of North Carolina system and many private colleges and universities.
  • Advises on Title IX compliance, investigations and litigation for athletes, coaches and administrators.
  • Represents K-12 schools in board governance and policy development; employment litigation and benefits; federal and state regulatory compliance; privacy issues; special education and disability law; procurement; contract review and negotiation; federal and state litigation; intergovernmental agreements; funding and foundations; student issues.
  • Serves as outside general counsel for a public school district with more than 250,000 students and $2.5 Billion+ budgets.
  • Have handled more than 250 special education disputes before the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), administrative agencies and federal courts.
  • Advises on First Amendment issues, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and constitutional law issues, including free speech rights and religious expression.
  • Leverages the law to maximize academic and operational performance for our clients through the charter school and charter system models.

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