Higher Education

We provide higher education institutions with mission-driven, cost effective, and feasible strategies and solutions that ensure legal compliance and risk mitigation without sacrificing institutional culture.

Lived Experiences in Higher Education + Law = Unparalleled Perspective, Commitment, and Value

For over 50 years, Harter Secrest & Emery has represented an array of higher education institutions, including large research institutions, nationally recognized and regional universities, private liberal arts colleges, religiously affiliated institutions, nursing schools, community colleges, and other academic institutions.  We pride ourselves on being more than outside counsel to our clients; every day and with every interaction and issue, we partner with our clients to address their opportunities and challenges as if they were our own.

In some respects, colleges and universities are like many other non-profit entities, allowing for legal knowledge to be highly transferrable.  In so many other ways, however, they are distinctive entities, making unique contributions to the communities in which they are located, the country, and the world, with student growth and achievement as their core mission. And, as highly regulated entities, institutions of higher education must focus on legal compliance and risk management, without taking their eyes off of their mission. 

Benefits from our “lived experiences”

For decades, we have been immersed in higher education—in legal and non-legal roles.  Members of our team have served as a college president, as faculty, in human resources and academic administration, and as investigators and conduct hearing board advisors.  Because of these lived experiences, our clients regularly seek legal advice, and just as often seek guidance regarding campus-wide initiatives, approaches to challenges only tangentially related to the law, and internal and external communications.  We have an immediate understanding of how discussions and decisions should be approached within the landscape, which translates into mission-driven, cost effective, and implementable solutions.

We strive to know your culture

We understand that legal guidance is helpful only if it resonates within each institution’s culture.  We work collaboratively with our clients to become well-versed in each campus’s values and parlance to ensure a harmonized approach.  Our long history of working with different institutions and different types of institutions, together with our commitment to understanding and honoring each institution’s culture and values, have resulted in effective communications, productive problem-solving, and constructive collaborations.  It is not uncommon for our higher education clients to say, “You get us.”

Higher Education Consulting
Our higher education consulting services combine decades of experiences and leadership within higher education with legal acumen to help higher education institutions transform challenges into solutions and opportunities. With President Emeritus and senior higher education counsel Daan Braveman (who during his nearly 45-year career achieved a national reputation in higher education administration and law) at the helm, we provide consulting services in the following areas: academic programming; alternative finance; campus culture and human capital; crisis planning and management; diversity, equity, and inclusion; executive and board leadership; mergers, acquisitions, closures, and strategic alliances; policy development; risk management; and strategic planning and communications. Click here to learn more.

Mergers, Acquisitions, and Strategic Alliances
Higher education institutions are experiencing profound change.  The difficult circumstances now facing higher education may necessitate conversations about internal restructuring, mergers, acquisitions, strategic alliances and affiliations, or even closure. As colleges and universities explore these options, we bring together the best thought leadership and legal acumen to help institutions face change head on and make strategic decisions that promote institutional vibrancy and viability. Click here to learn more.

We help our clients develop competencies through compliance training and regularly conduct training required by law and programs related to legal developments and mission-oriented trends.  Our training programs are infused with practicality, in part because of our experience inside higher education and in part because it is how we practice law, and many organizations find our training to be educational, interesting, and fun (even FERPA training!).  From “training the trainer” to direct delivery of content, we can help design practical and highly cost-effective training programs meaningful to and necessary for your campus. We have trained institution representatives across New York State. Click here to view a map.

Breadth and depth of knowledge on issues facing higher education
We provide legal advice related to the ever-expanding list of applicable laws and practical, day-to-day guidance on the broad range of issues your institution may face, including:

Corporate, Finance, Non-profit, and Tax

  • Bond financing
  • Board governance
  • Contract management
  • Crisis communications and management
  • Endowments
  • Grant administration and effort reporting
  • IRS and Form 990
  • Mergers, acquisitions, closures, and strategic affiliations and alliances
  • New York State Not-For-Profit Corporation Law
  • Policy development
  • Tax-exempt structure

Faculty Matters and Academic Affairs

  • Academic programming and approvals
  • Accreditation
  • Faculty appointments and protections
  • Financial exigency
  • Shared governance

Intellectual Property

  • Infringement litigation
  • Licensing
  • Technology transfer
  • Trademark

Labor, Employment, Benefits, and Immigration

  • ACA
  • Collective bargaining and NLRB compliance
  • Compliance with Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • EEO and non-discrimination
  • Employment-based immigration petitions
  • Employee benefits, including retirement and health benefits and executive compensation
  • I-9 compliance
  • Leave issues, including compliance with the FMLA, ADA, and Workers’ Compensation Law
  • National Labor Relations Act
  • Performance management
  • Personnel policies and practices
  • Reductions in force
  • Wage and hour

Litigation, Litigation Avoidance, and Internal Investigations

  • Adjudication
  • Civil, criminal, and regulatory investigations
  • False Claims Act compliance and investigations
  • Informal resolution
  • Litigation defense, including litigation and resolution strategies
  • Risk management
  • Title IX and discrimination investigations

Privacy and Data Security

  • Breach prevention
  • Responding to state and federal inquiries
  • Security breaches

Real Estate, Construction, and Environmental

  • Acquisition
  • Disposition of property
  • Expansion and renovation
  • Leasing

Student Affairs

  • Admissions
  • Campus crime reporting and emergency preparedness (Clery Act)
  • Codes of conduct and disciplinary processes
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Federal financial aid and scholarships and Title IV
  • Non-discrimination
  • Policy development
  • Section 504
  • Title VI
  • Title IX
  • Training

Title IX


This website presents only general information not intended as legal advice. Although we encourage calls, letters and emails from prospective clients, please keep in mind that merely contacting Harter Secrest & Emery LLP (HSE) does not establish an attorney-client relationship between us. Confidential information should not be sent to HSE until you have been notified in writing by HSE that a formal attorney-client relationship has been established. Information sent to us before then may not be treated as confidential by HSE or the court.

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