Higher Education


Leaders of higher education institutions today face unprecedented challenges and opportunities. Given significant regulatory changes, shifting enrollment patterns, and other impactful developments in higher education, colleges and universities must plan ahead while staying nimble.

Michael Best® is here to help. Our Higher Education team has decades of experience working with college and university leaders. We’re dedicated to helping our higher education clients fulfill their missions.

We work with more than 100 higher education clients throughout the United States. Michael Best offers a comprehensive suite of solutions and strategies to help higher education leaders, trustees, and in-house counsel guide their institutions. We bring an exceptional skillset and experience to the issues faced by higher education institutions.

We’ve built a deep understanding of how educational institutions work, what academic leaders face, what they do, and why they do it. That enables us to assist colleges and universities with problem-solving, crisis management, and finding ways to achieve their goals.

In our work as outside counsel to many institutions, our lawyers take calls on whatever campus issues arise—from intellectual property and research compliance to employment, real estate, litigation, environmental, and cybersecurity issues. Higher education clients also value Michael Best’s experience in issues specific to academic institutions, such as Title IX, the Clery Act, FERPA, remote learning, campus political activity, academic freedom, and faculty hearings.


Service Areas

Higher Education Restructuring

Colleges and universities are planning for demographic shifts that will dramatically affect enrollment and revenue. Michael Best offers a comprehensive suite of solutions to help your institution plan for the “demographic cliff” and other major challenges. We can help you understand the options, strategize, and take action to meet these challenges.

We can work with higher education institutions to help them create new revenue streams, right-size, merge, or reorganize, and we provide insight to support and maintain the educational mission. When necessary, we also help colleges and universities restructure or wind down operations in a dignified, intentional process designed to mitigate risk and exposure.


Intellectual Property

Michael Best’s nationally recognized Intellectual Property practice provides comprehensive service to higher education clients. With more than 150 lawyers and technical professionals, our IP group has a deep talent pool. We practice in all areas of intellectual property, from trademark, brand protection, and internet law to trade secret, patent protection, litigation, and portfolio management.

To help clients tap into the potential of academic research as a revenue source, we developed a special University Technology Commercialization program. Michael Best has extensive experience working with university inventors and technology managers to identify patentable aspects within university research and then turn research into profitable assets.

Navigating these opportunities—and forging relationships built on entrepreneurship and innovation—are at the heart of what our IP group does with our research university clients. We help clients capitalize on crucial technology and IP assets through technology transfer, licensing, joint development, and other strategic alliances, while protecting the collaborative spirit of an academic setting.


Labor & Employment

Our top-ranked Labor & Employment Relations group helps clients throughout the country make employment-related decisions and plan for the future. We have extensive experience assisting universities and colleges, as well as affiliated entities, such as medical schools and foundations.

Michael Best offers higher education clients a comprehensive range of services in labor, employment, and employee benefits law, including:

  • Affirmative Action Plan compliance
  • Employee benefits and executive compensation
  • Employment litigation
  • Employment policies, practices, and audits
  • Immigration
  • Investigations
  • Labor-management relations
  • Training
  • Unfair competition and trade secrets
  • Wage and hour compliance and defense
  • Workplace safety and health



Our Immigration group works with higher education institutions to optimally position human capital and intellectual resources within the United States. We often provide guidance on creative approaches to partnerships with business that allow for enhanced funding and staffing opportunities for both sides of the partnership.

We help our clients obtain permanent residence (green card) status for foreign faculty and staff, advise on issues related to foreign students, and assist with visas and employment authorization for U.S.-based employees. We also handle I-9 audits; advise on E-Verify compliance, Social Security mismatch letters, and tax issues for foreign nationals; and provide training for staff who complete I-9s.


Real Estate & Project Development

Many higher education institutions have valuable real estate assets, as well as a need to create modern, attractive housing options for students and a revenue stream for the institution. While rewarding, these projects can be challenging.

Our Real Estate team helps colleges, universities, and developers across the United States navigate the complexities of their real estate transactions and development projects. We work with clients to proactively identify opportunities, structure transactions and financing, negotiate agreements, and get projects completed.

  • We advise colleges and universities on a full range of real estate matters, including:
  • Project development and financing
  • Land use and zoning
  • Adaptive reuse of space
  • Selling and leasing campus space
  • Tax credit incentives
  • Construction law
  • Commercial finance and lending
  • Public-private partnerships


Corporate & Finance

Our Corporate group advises universities and colleges on an array of issues, from entity formation and governance to contract negotiations, deal structuring, tax planning, and regulatory compliance.

We also have deep experience in the special needs of nonprofit entities. We advise on issues such as tax-exempt entity formation, nonprofit governance and compliance, social enterprises, public-private partnerships and other strategic alliances, nonprofit mergers and consolidations, and state charitable solicitation laws.

We also help nonprofits explore business models that generate a sustainable revenue stream while furthering their charitable missions, thereby freeing up their boards of directors to focus more on programmatic activities and less on fundraising.


General & Board Counsel

Michael Best often serves either as a resource to in-house counsel or as general counsel for universities and colleges. In this capacity, we advise on topics such as board organizational procedures, commercial and intergovernmental contracts, board duties and liability, finance and insurance matters, student rights, and state and federal regulatory compliance.

We also frequently advise on issues such as on-campus safety and workplace violence, electronic communication and policy enforcement, political activities on campus, state and federal investigations, record maintenance and release, procurement documentation and compliance including minority participation, HIPAA compliance, reimbursement of expenses, parking and traffic control on campus, and trademark and copyright issues.

In the role of board counsel, we often assist in handling highly sensitive employee, citizen, and student complaints; president evaluation processes; preparation of presidents’ employment contracts; the president search process; and handling personnel-related hearings before the board. We also provide training to boards in relevant legal issues.

Student Issues

Our attorneys are experienced in handling a wide variety of student-related issues, including complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and other state or federal agencies. We also help clients develop policies and procedures to maintain compliance with state and federal laws and regulations.     

Representative areas in which we assist colleges and universities include:

  • Administrative search and seizure
  • Admissions standards
  • Affirmative action
  • Clery Act compliance, student harassment allegations, and investigations
  • Clinical placement issues
  • Disability accommodations
  • Discrimination and harassment
  • FERPA and privacy issues
  • First Amendment rights of students
  • Foreign student issues and complaints
  • Participation waivers and release for activities and programs
  • Releases and health issues
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
  • Service and emotional support animals on campus
  • Student contracts
  • Student travel and foreign travel waivers
  • Title IX complaints and investigations, including Title IX litigation brought by students
  • Tuition and financial aid issues

Primary Contact


Primary Contact

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