Troutman Sanders’ Education practice represents public and private colleges and universities, as well as K-12 schools, trustees and governing boards, endowments, foundations, public and private support organizations, and other education entities with regard to many of the legal challenges and issues they face. Education organizations at all levels confront complex challenges, internally and externally, involving financial resources, organizational compliance, personnel matters, litigation, as well as protection of intellectual property rights and related matters. Most recently, our education practice has represented a group of alumnae who are committed to reversing the decision of Sweet Briar Institute to close.
Troutman Sanders’ interdisciplinary education practice assists in identifying and implementing solutions to the many problems and challenges faced in higher education and K-12, including in the following areas:
We have advised universities undergoing a review by their accrediting entity, including those placed on warning or probation and those removed from accreditation. Troutman Sanders has experience in managing disputes with accreditors and state authorizing agencies, from negotiations, to administrative proceedings, and judicial review. We work with clients who are concerned about the possible loss of accreditation in preparing for their periodic review. Our team includes professionals who have served as members of governing boards and have many years of direct, hands-on experience in state regulation and accreditation.
We have deep experience in assisting institutions as they obtain accreditation and in maintaining that status through periodic reaffirmation reviews and in the face of structural, financial, or operational changes, and we perform due diligence in this complex arena in transactions involving the sale, acquisition, or merger of institutions.
Corporate Governance challenges of educational institutions have become more complex and include internal and external organizational and governance issues. Troutman Sanders’ lawyers assist with review of corporate governance policies and procedures, corporate organization, internal audit, and related areas that enhance the institution’s ongoing governance and operations.
Crisis Management and Communications
From time-to-time, higher education and K-12 entities have needs in the area of crisis management and communications, public relations, risk management, and compliance with laws and regulations. Our lawyers have experience representing colleges and universities’ senior administration and governing boards in connection with these issues. Our professionals include those who have served on boards with experience managing through crises.
In addition, our public relations team assists clients with media-related issues that arise in crisis situations. The team maintains connections with most major US newspapers and media outlets, in addition to trade newspapers, blogs and online media organizations. The team can craft the overall media strategy and response to the crisis, prepare statements and press releases for institutions and their senior leadership, and serve as media contacts and/or spokespersons when necessary.
Distance learning or distance education, the education of students not physically present in the traditional classroom setting, has exploded in recent years and presents perhaps the greatest opportunity, and challenge, in the history of higher education. The current crisis in higher education funding, both in the US and abroad, coupled with significant technology advances and the demand for more college degrees across all sectors of society, have placed distance education in the center of every higher education discussion. Students and parents, colleges and universities, governments and oversight bodies, and many other constituencies have a significant interest in a number of critical issues involving distance education. Members of Troutman Sanders’ Education practice are intimately familiar with the many challenges and issues raised by distance education.
Educational Broadcasting and Social Media
Educational Broadcasting creates new content delivery opportunities and challenges. For instance, the sharing of classroom resources via social networking software can lead to major copyright headaches. Troutman Sanders is well prepared to assist clients with their educational broadcasting and social media needs.
Employee Benefits and Compensation
Compliance with increasingly complex state and federal laws regulating employee benefits and compensation requires institutions to seek up-to-the-minute advice from their compensation and benefits counsel. The Firm's Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation practice handles all aspects of compensation and benefits law, design, consulting and application. The group has the knowledge, depth and experience to guide your educational institution through the complicated issues arising in connection with the design, development, implementation, maintenance, defense, and termination of employee compensation and benefit plans and arrangements.
We proactively counsel education institutions regarding employment issues and represent institutions in federal and state court lawsuits involving numerous types of claims.
Higher education and K-12 rely on sophisticated financing transactions for operation and capital needs. Troutman Sanders has extensive experience representing universities, university foundations, building authorities and other entities in all structures of finance in the development of educational facilities including dormitories, dining facilities, classrooms, auxiliary space and other facility uses.
Government Relations and Public Policy
Our Education practice includes principals from Troutman Sanders Strategies, a full-service government relations and issue management firm. We advocate our clients' public policy issues through a broad array of contacts at the federal, state and local levels in order to build better partnerships among governments and businesses. We currently represent five universities providing federal governmental affairs services and some state consulting work. Our lawyers and professionals routinely work on budget issues in Congress and state legislatures for K-12, have extensive backgrounds working with higher education public policy and government relations and are well versed in the myriad construction issues that can arise for all educational levels.
Troutman Sanders focuses on all aspects of business immigration law. We have experience representing teachers, researchers and others in the higher education space in the area of immigration. We have represented both the educational facilities themselves and individual students and their families in this area.
Troutman Sanders has extensive experience representing universities and research organizations. Our lawyers understand the unique nature of representing academic institutions and the need for clear communication to ensure that proper intellectual property rights are pursued in a timely and cost efficient basis. Troutman Sanders has an interdisciplinary team dedicated to representing public and private colleges and universities beyond intellectual property, including the expansion of their physical plant and facilities, as well as advising architects, contractors, lenders and other professionals involved in the implementation of an expansion project. Our lawyers structure transactions in anticipation of client long term goals, spot issues to avoid legal delays and coordinate the many disciplines and professionals required to implement the transaction.
The firm provides a complete array of intellectual property law services for education clients including: obtaining patents, trademarks and copyrights; state-of-the-art searches and clearance evaluations; patentability, registerability, validity and infringement opinions; negotiating and preparing licenses and agreements; monitoring competitive and research patent activities; and intellectual property due diligence and audits, in addition to general intellectual property law counseling. Our lawyers offer worldwide experience; we have obtained patents and trademarks in more than 120 countries and have been involved in enforcing or defending against both US and foreign patents, trademarks, and copyrights for our clients.
We approach intellectual property prosecution with a global perspective, including both international and domestic prosecution of patents and trademarks. Our firm has formed teams whose combined expertise can address the many varied issues relating to all aspects of intellectual property protection as well as the successful transformation of inventions into commercial success. For example, the Patent Group includes more than 20 primary members with a full spectrum of technological backgrounds and degrees (including biochemistry; molecular biology; chemistry; biomedical, chemical, electrical, mechanical and aerospace engineering; and computer science). Many of our patent practitioners have either advanced graduate degrees or industry experience, or experience in the US Patent and Trademark Office as application examiners.
Members of the Education practice include litigators who regularly protect clients’ interests at the trial and appellate levels for civil and various types of criminal proceedings. Significant education cases handled by the group include special education rights, intellectual property disputes, ownership of education content, as well as victim-related matters in an educational context.
Under the law of certain states, public education institutions can team with private entities to design, construct, finance and operate facilities. Troutman Sanders’ lawyers have extensive experience in this area.
Real Estate and Construction
Our real estate lawyers advise universities and related foundations as well as K-12 institutions on a variety of real estate matters.
Troutman Sanders’ Education practice lawyers regularly represent parents of children with disabilities in disputes with local school board over the child’s Individual Education Program (IEP). Our lawyers have represented parents at all levels of controversy, including IEP meetings, due process hearings and appeals at all levels.
Educational institutions are increasingly finding themselves in need of guidance in connection with dealing with examinations and proposed actions by regulators. We also advise clients on how to best preserve their counsel privileges and other rights related to government investigations. Many of our Education practice members are result-oriented litigators with a reputation for providing the highest quality service to our clients in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Our lawyers have significant trial experience and are capable of trying the most complex issues before judges, juries, and arbitrators. However, from the outset of every engagement, we look for early solutions, whether by settlement or pre-trial proceedings.
There are many concerns that educational institutions face when it comes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), otherwise known as the “Buckley Amendment,” which protects the privacy of a student’s educational record and prohibits the release of student information to third parties, including the student's parents, absent the student’s consent, unless such information is defined as “directory information.” Likewise, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) creates a need for educational institutions to be vigilant about training employees as to the appropriate handling of student data. In 2008, the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Education issued joint guidance on the application of FERPA and HIPAA to student health records. The purpose of this guidance was to explain the relationship between FERPA and HIPAA and to address confusion on the part of school administrators, healthcare professionals, and others as to how these two laws apply to student records. The guidance also addressed certain disclosures that are allowed without consent or authorization under both laws, especially those related to health and safety emergency situations.