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Miller Canfield is one of the Midwest's leading law firms for educational institutions of all types. We provide a full-range of services that fit the special needs of colleges, universities and professional schools, as well as K-12 schools and districts, public, private or independent. From school board governance and revenue bonds to university internal investigations and everything in between, our experience is unrivaled. 

Higher Education

Managing an institution of higher learning is a challenge like few others. Advising those institutions takes a special kind of lawyer with experience dealing with those challenges. Whether we are helping a client find the best way to finance a new campus facility, conduct a sensitive internal investigation, respond to student grievances, or design proactive compliance policies and procedures, we do so with a full understanding of the web of often competing considerations and constituencies that you face.

Providing the best advice to your institution requires not only expertise in specific areas of the law such as: tax; employment; public finance; or litigation; but also knowledge of the special legal and practical considerations affecting colleges and universities. Miller Canfield’s higher education team consists of lawyers who have deep knowledge of their respective substantive areas of law and a wealth of experience applying that knowledge in the context of educational institutions. And with higher education lawyers based in Michigan and Illinois, we understand the local pressures and issues that affect each decision you make. We partner with clients to obtain the optimal result consistent with the institution’s values and mission.

Clients in higher education rely on Miller Canfield in the following areas:

  • Financings, including 
    • Bond counsel services
    • State aid
    • Rating agency presentations
    • Real estate development, including public-private partnerships (P3)
    • Capital improvements
    • Construction-related contracts
    • Competitive bidding
    • Service contracts
    • Permitted investments
    • Equipment financing
    • Facilities, including academic buildings, hospitals, student living facilities, recreation centers, stadiums and athletic facilities, power plants and parking structures
    • Shared services agreements
    • Cash-flow borrowing, deficit funding and restructuring
    • Arbitrage rebate analysis and IRS audits
    • Tax and securities law analysis
    • Technology, including acquisition, installation, software licensing
    • Environmental
    • Design creative public-private partnerships to enable campus facility expansion and improvement
  • Employment and labor counseling, including
    • Employment and retirement benefits
    • State and federal labor law, including collective bargaining agreements and union grievance resolution
    • Employment disputes, including harassment claims, employee theft and safety threats
    • Accommodation counseling and litigation, including FMLA and ADA
    • Evaluation protocols
    • Outsourcing agreements
    • Faculty tenure and evaluation
      • Help a university trim its tenured faculty in de-emphasized curricular areas without spawning any litigation
      • Sustain denial of tenure and termination of tenured faculty from internal appeals and court challenge
    • Whistleblower cases.
  • Accreditation issues.
  • Athletics and sports law.
  • Internal investigations that involve potential NCAA major infractions, harassment allegations, and other compliance issues.
  • Intellectual property issues, including copyrights and trademarks.
  • Construction
  • Litigation in federal and state courts and regulatory tribunals
    • Special counseling to administration, boards and general counsel
    • Investigations
    • State and federal regulatory matters
    • Criminal activity and investigations
    • Independent monitor
    • Compliance and risk counseling
    • Codes and policies
    • Athletics
    • Construction
    • Procurement and contracting
    • Successfully defend universities from student consumer fraud/false advertising class claims
  • Regulatory and governmental compliance
  • Federal higher education compliance, including FERPA and Title IX
  • Online education
  • General tort cases, including intentional torts and premises liability
  • Admissions and affirmative action programs
  • Federal grants and procurement
  • General governance
    • Negotiate substantial redesign of faculty by-laws and governance documents
  • Transactions, contracts and commercial
  • Independent monitoring
  • Tax and benefit counseling
  • Defamation cases
  • Insurance counseling and litigation
  • Student affairs and policies
  • Health system issues
  • Endowment spending
  • Development and fund raising.
  • Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Open Meetings Act compliance.
  • Export controls
K-12

Miller Canfield’s Education Law team is known throughout Michigan, Illinois and the Midwestern United States for its broad expertise in representing public school districts and private schools, community colleges, and private and public colleges and universities. From finance to facilities, employment and labor to legislation and governance, our lawyers have the experience, knowledge and reputations schools need.

Finance and Operations

Our finance lawyers have assisted public and private educational institutions and districts fund everything from buildings and equipment to cash flow funding through millage elections. Clients rely on Miller Canfield for advice related to:

  • Bond counsel services
  • Millage proposals, including elections and campaign finance compliance
  • State aid, the School Aid Act and pupil accounting
  • Rating agency presentations
  • Real estate development, including public-private partnerships (P3)
  • Capital improvements
  • Construction-related contracts
  • Competitive bidding
  • Service contracts
  • Permitted investments
  • Equipment financing
  • Facilities, including academic buildings, hospitals, student living facilities, recreation centers, stadiums and athletic facilities, power plants and parking structures
  • Shared services agreements
  • Cash-flow borrowing, deficit funding and restructuring
  • Arbitrage rebate analysis and IRS audits
  • Tax and securities law analysis
  • Drafting and interpretation of education legislation 
  • FOIA, Open Meetings Act and governance matters
  • Technology, including acquisition, installation, software licensing
  • Environmental
  • Permitted uses of bond proceeds and special purpose millages
  • School reform questions/compliance
  • Student issues, including special education, student conduct codes, discipline and expulsion issues

Student Issues

Miller Canfield education lawyers also advise public, private and independent schools on student specific issues, including:

  • Special education
  • Student codes of conduct
  • Discipline
  • Expulsion
  • Residency and guardianship
  • Homeless students

Employment and Labor

Miller Canfield’s Employment and Labor group is nationally respected for its service to all clients, including educational institutions and school districts. Knowledge of education environment is essential when assisting with:

  • Employment and retirement benefits
  • State and federal labor law, including collective bargaining agreements and union grievance resolution
  • Employment disputes, including harassment claims, employee theft and safety threats
  • Accommodation counseling and litigation, including FMLA and ADA
  • Federal law compliance, including FERPA
  • Evaluation protocols
  • Outsourcing agreements
  • Teacher tenure and evaluation

Litigation and Dispute Resolution

Miller Canfield has been a trusted counselor and partner to hundreds of school districts, as well as universities, colleges and educational institutions in addressing and solving complex issues as well as providing day-to-day assistance, including:

  • Litigation in federal and state courts and regulatory tribunals
  • Special counseling to administration, boards and general counsel
  • Investigations
  • State and federal regulatory matters
  • Criminal activity and investigations
  • Independent monitor
  • Compliance and risk counseling
  • Codes and policies
  • Athletics
  • Construction
  • Procurement and contracting