Higher Education and Private Schools


Bowditch & Dewey’s Education Law Practice Group has extensive experience in representing higher education institutions and private elementary and secondary schools in all aspects of their operations. We provide legal services to over 20 colleges, universities and research institutions, independent elementary and secondary schools, and ancillary associations, such as educational consortia and athletic conferences. Our higher education clients run complex organizations that utilize the full breadth of our firm’s experience and legal expertise in business and finance; labor and employment; real estate and environmental; federal, state, and local regulatory compliance; intellectual property; and exempt organizations law.

As a result of our long history of serving colleges, universities and independent schools, and the in-house experience of a number of our attorneys, we have a thorough understanding of the practical problems and diverse issues facing educational institutions. We understand that how our clients resolve legal issues can affect public perception of the school and relations with students and student groups, with faculty and unions, and with alumni and donors.  For over a decade, the firm has sponsored a College and University Roundtable Seminar Series, a program that addresses legal issues in higher education.

Student Affairs

  • Accommodations for students with disabilities/student appeals and grievances
  • Academic grievances/grade appeal procedures
  • Admissions/revocation of admission/suspensions/voluntary and involuntary withdrawals
  • Diversity and affirmative action (in admissions, financial aid, scholarships)
  • Office for Civil Rights investigations/negotiation of resolution agreements
  • Financial aid (Department of Education regulations)
  • Student Handbook review/conduct code and other student life policies
  • FERPA and student privacy and records retention
  • Residence life matters (student accommodations in housing; housing contracts, housing discipline issues and removal from housing)
  • Student visas and immigration
  • Student safety and campus security
  • Student disciplinary proceedings
  • Student life (student clubs, lotteries and raffles, liability waivers)
  • Study abroad programs
  • Title IX, sexual harassment, and other claims of discrimination

Faculty and Staff

  • Diversity and affirmative action in hiring
  • Retirement and employee benefits (early retirement/window programs/phased retirement)
  • Employment and discrimination (hiring, discipline, termination, sexual harassment, wage/hour, and FMLA, defending employment-related claims)
  • Employee handbooks and employee training
  • Employment agreements, including for college presidents and heads of school
  • Employment compliance issues, including recordkeeping and posting requirements
  • ERISA compliance

Facilities and Campus Development

  • ADA accessibility issues
  • Design and construction agreements/dispute resolution
  • Dover Act and land use litigation
  • Environmental matters related to permitting, compliance, release responses, enforcement actions, audits
  • Joint institutional/private development
  • Comprehensive real estate matters including acquisitions, development, zoning and permitting, leasing, construction, code compliance, renovation of historic buildings
  • Tax-exempt bond financing for capital projects (representation of institutions and underwriters)
  • Telecommunications/campus-wide distributed antenna licenses and agreements 
  • Facilities licensing
  • Renewable and clean energy projects on campus (power purchase agreements, site licenses, sustainability initiatives)

Institutional Administration

  • Board governance and Board policies including bylaw revisions
  • Business and vendor contracts (for goods or services - dining, parking, security, bookstores, etc.)
  • Consulting agreements
  • Enrollment contracts
  • Intellectual property (copyright, trademark, mechanical and engineering patents, and software development and licensing)
  • Internal investigations
  • Litigation in courts and administrative agencies
  • Risk management - athletics, student programs, business enterprises
  • Social media use for faculty, staff and students
  • Technology licensing/software agreements
  • Summer conferences and summer camps