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Higher Education

Franczek represents public and private research institutions, community colleges, liberal arts and graduate schools, academic medical centers, and for-profit higher education institutions.  For all such institutions, our goal is to help educators develop the most efficient, cost-effective responses to legal issues, while still remaining true to the mission, culture, and core values of the particular institution.

Our approach is two-fold:  to help clients prevent risk when possible and manage risk when it cannot be prevented.  To help clients prevent risk, we draft policies, procedures, internal compliance programs, and dispute resolution procedures.  We also audit and update existing policies and procedures to incorporate best practices, replace unworkable procedures, and eliminate the informal “unwritten practices” often used within higher education.  An additional, essential aspect of risk prevention is to ensure that campus constituencies actually understand how to comply with existing policies; we frequently help “educate the educators” by instructing campus constituencies about their rights and responsibilities under the institution’s internal procedures and applicable law.

When complex, sensitive disputes do arise, we represent institutions in internal processes and hearings, agency actions, litigation, and dispute resolution proceedings.  We also help institutions communicate appropriately about these disputes with various constituencies, including employees, students, parents, alumni, donors, other members of the campus community, and the public.  We have brought our experience to bear upon difficult higher education issues such as academic program closures; financial exigency declarations; institutional affiliations; business operations; employee benefits; faculty and tenure disputes; governance and compliance conflicts; labor and employment disputes; privacy issues; disputed issues regarding accommodation of disabilities; and student and faculty contract and due process claims.  In the course of doing so, we represent institutions of higher learning throughout the United States, including working on behalf of colleges and universities in audits and investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice and other administrative agencies; in state court cases and appeals; in EEOC and other actions charging “pattern or practice” discrimination; and in federal litigation and appeals raising discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims.

The collective experience of our labor and employment team greatly enhances our higher education practice.  With extensive work on collective bargaining and in employment litigation for both public and private entities, we are uniquely positioned to advise higher education institutions on the full range of legal issues that schools may encounter.