Business Issues and Fiscal Affairs
Endowments, Foundations and Charitable Gifting
Harris Beach provides strategic counsel to educational institutions as the recipients of endowed funds and trusts with comprehensive reviews to help ensure that maximum funds are available for use. Our attorneys counsel on the laws concerning use and spending of endowments, quasi-endowments, charitable trusts, support foundations and other restricted funds.
Financial Aid and Student Loan Collections
Harris Beach provides guidance on financial aid and handles debt collection on behalf of higher educational institutions, including collections on federally backed student loans as well as collections of unpaid loans for educational resources from private student guarantors. We also manage pre-judgment medical school loan collections for the Pennsylvania Higher Educational Assistance Agency. These medical school loans are backed by the Department of Health and Human Services. We have also collected on student loans for the U.S. Department of Justice.
Government Compliance, Audits and Investigations
Our attorneys advise public and private entities on best practices in corporate governance and counsel boards and committees on their duties and responsibilities, including their fiduciary obligations under applicable state law. We advise our clients on a wide variety of matters including board and committee composition and practices, special committee issues, conflicts of interest and codes of conduct. Our attorneys help clients review policies and procedures to maintain compliance with all applicable laws, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Title IX, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. We also have significant experience defending colleges and universities and shepherding them through internal investigations.
Damage to the reputation of a college or university can adversely affect student recruitment, alumni donations and even federal funding. We help institutions decrease liability and minimize potential reputational risks through insurance and risk management techniques including voluntary internal compliance audits. Our attorneys routinely advise clients on compliance with federal tax return reporting regulations, internal bylaws and the policies and initiatives of the Office of the New York State Attorney General.
Grant Writing and Administration
Successful grant writing involves planning, data and resource research, and proposal writing, packaging, submission and follow-up. Harris Beach offers these services to supplement educational institutions’ internal resources with grant proposals for a variety of funding purposes. We have extensive experience with grant administration on the federal, state and local levels and have assisted higher educational institutions with grants for equipment acquisition, programs and facility development.
Information Management and Security
Harris Beach attorneys are acutely aware of educational institutions’ sensitivity to the vulnerability of their computer systems from outside the institution, and from individuals with access to those systems. Our attorneys and information technology professionals provide guidance on compliance with privacy laws including the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, FERPA, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. We also help educational institutions with Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act compliance. While this law is directly applicable to financial institutions, it must also be considered by colleges and universities as they take steps to ensure the security of their students’ financial information.
Intellectual Property and Technology Commercialization
Our attorneys leverage their legal skills and sophisticated technical backgrounds to provide higher educational institution clients a complete range of intellectual property (IP) and technology commercialization services from acquisition and management through enforcement and litigation. We handle all aspects of patent, copyright and trademark protection both in the US and worldwide for a variety of clients from educational institutions to industrial and consumer manufacturers. Our attorneys have extensive experience helping clients ensure that their ideas and inventions are protected under US and international laws. We also advise our clients on establishing patent, work-for-hire and non-competition agreements with employees responsible for research and development, and regularly handle licensing agreements for higher educational institutions.
Harris Beach attorneys seek to maximize higher educational institutions’ budgets by providing guidance on patentability and the range of claim strategies they can utilize to turn those assets into a significant revenue stream. We assist universities and colleges in maximizing their IP assets through technology transfer opportunities, licensing and commercialization. With a full-service practice and a solid base of experience in numerous industries, we are active in university-industry collaborations; from obtaining patents and negotiating license agreements to organizing entities to pursue commercialization.
Master Planning and Campus Expansion
Harris Beach provides legal counsel on all aspects of master planning and campus expansion, including bond financing, construction and surety, environmental compliance and litigation, and sustainability.
Our public finance attorneys serve as issuer’s counsel, borrower’s counsel, bond counsel and underwriters’ counsel in connection with a wide variety of public and private tax-exempt financings involving general obligation bonds and revenue bonds in the financing of such projects as student housing, classrooms, athletic facilities and research centers. We are also involved with fixed and variable rate bonds, credit and liquidity enhanced bonds, and bond refundings. Harris Beach is listed as recognized bond counsel in the “Municipal Bond Attorneys” section of The Bond Buyer’s Municipal Marketplace.
Our construction and surety attorneys draft and negotiate complex commercial contracts including construction, vendor, leasing and joint venture agreements. We support clients on matters of commercial contract law, and handle matters of construction contracting from the preparation and negotiation of documents through implementation. Our attorneys are vigilant in contract drafting, analysis and review to protect clients from unwarranted litigation.
We also have significant experience dealing with public bidding issues, including lowest responsible bidder determinations, project labor agreements and compliance with bid documents. Our services related to bid document compliance include prequalification of bidders, prevailing wage rate and Wicks Law issues, accepting and awarding bids, illegal bids and contracts, bid withdrawal, exceptions to bidding rules, challenges to bid awards and obtaining relief from bid mistakes.
After construction completion, Harris Beach attorneys counsel higher educational institutions on construction-related matters, including breach of contracts, disputes regarding payment and the performance of work, the filing of liens on projects, and claims against bonding companies. We have also successfully handled dispute resolution in construction and surety matters on behalf of colleges and universities through litigation, arbitration and mediation.
For projects requiring environmental review, our attorneys counsel higher educational institutions on implementation of local, state and federal laws, including the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), National Environmental Policy Act, New York City Environmental Quality Review Act and New York Uniform Land Use Review Procedures. We have also litigated claims related to SEQRA compliance for colleges and universities, including prosecuting and defending Article 78 actions that relate to zoning and sewer fee issues.
Our attorneys identify and help clients benefit from sustainable energy-related economic development incentives offered by entities such as the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and regulated utilities. Most notably for higher educational institutions, we can assist with NYSERDA energy efficiency/renewables programs which could provide substantial improvements on college and university campuses related to new construction, renovations or equipment upgrades. Our firm’s energy team, led by a former president of NYSERDA, can also help clients develop cost-effective strategies for energy procurement and management. This includes energy purchasing strategies based upon client-specific risk/reward profiles, wholesale market buying opportunities, and demand response management.
Media Relations and Communications
Harris Beach serves as a resource to educational institutions for effective communications strategies for controversial, crisis or complex communications situations. Our media relations support includes consultations between clients, firm attorneys and firm communications/public relations professionals. This service can also be provided through our consulting subsidiary, HB Solutions. More information on this entity can be found at the end of this brochure.
We have provided communications consulting on a wide range of matters involving personnel and student issues, environmental issues, federal and state regulatory compliance, civil lawsuits and criminal investigations. These communications strategies take into account external and internal stakeholders to help protect higher educational institutions from potentially damaging consequences to their image, brand and internal morale. We have handled high-profile incidents which have drawn national and international media attention. We prepare and conduct communications for all stakeholders, whether internal, community or media. We also provide media outreach on behalf of clients and arrange interviews; organize press conferences; assess situations to determine the best approach at handling media inquiries; draft messaging, Q&A, media statements and press releases; prepare spokespeople with media training and construct key message points to all constituencies.
We advise colleges and universities on compliance with the growing number of increasingly complex rules and regulations governing collegiate sports. Our USA Collegiate Sports practice attorneys handle a broad range of NCAA compliance and student-athlete eligibility issues, and have assisted NCAA member schools in all three divisions with various membership issues, including the NCAA Division I Institutional Performance Program (formerly known as Athletic Certification), creation and implementation of NCAA Rules Compliance programs, and investigation of NCAA rule infractions and corrective measures. When a collegiate sports client is alerted of a possible NCAA rules infraction, our attorneys conduct a thorough investigation to determine the pertinent facts and engage the NCAA to resolve the matter.
Harris Beach tax attorneys offer a range of representation on federal, state and local tax law. Our comprehensive tax law services for not-for-profit higher educational institutions include, but are not limited to, securing and maintaining tax-exempt status, providing counsel on real property tax exemptions, structuring activities that produce both exempt and taxable income, and handling the dissolution or termination of exempt entities.
Disability and Civil Rights
We draft policies and procedures concerning disability and civil rights, and train college and university staff on responsibilities in these areas. Our attorneys are intimately involved with the provision of appropriate accommodations for faculty and staff with disabilities under federal and New York state law. We also monitor our clients’ compliance with disability and anti-discrimination laws. We have considerable experience representing college and university clients in administrative actions and appeals before the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Justice and New York State Division of Human Rights, and in litigation before federal and New York state courts.
Employment Litigation and Administrative Hearings
Harris Beach attorneys are experienced in successfully defending employers against employment-related matters such as employment discrimination, wage/hour, wrongful discharge matters and constitutional issues. We regularly advise institutions on challenges and conflicts related to faculty tenure, as well as promotion and termination of faculty and staff. We also provide preventative counseling, training and policy development services to proactively foster our college and university clients’ compliance with governmental regulations.
Hiring, Leave and Termination Matters
An employer’s improper handling of hiring, leave and termination matters may lead to costly penalties or litigation. Harris Beach assists higher educational institution clients in all phases of the employment cycle from hiring through termination. Our services include employment policy preparation and review, as well as ongoing guidance on complying with complex and ever-evolving labor laws. We advise clients on a host of employee leave laws and regulations, including the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, state workers’ compensation laws, military leave laws, and the interplay between these various statutes.
Immigration Law and Employment Compliance
Immigration law is another aspect of our labor and employment practice which impacts our college and university clients. Our attorneys advise higher educational institution clients in areas of immigration law related to their faculty and staff, including providing guidance on nonimmigrant visa petitions (H-1B, O-1, etc.) and lawful permanent residence (PERM, outstanding professor or researcher, alien of extraordinary ability, special handling). We assist institutions in reviewing and organizing their immigration function for maximum efficiency and best practices, including review and establishment of written policies for immigration procedures.
Harris Beach attorneys help clients comply with electronic employment verification rules and Form I-9 compliance and auditing to ease their burden of examining documents to prove employee identity and employment authorization. When appropriate, we also offer information and seminars to foreign employees regarding maintenance of status and immigration options.
Labor, Collective Bargaining and Unions
Our attorneys have considerable experience negotiating collective bargaining agreements between our clients and public sector unions. We advise clients regarding the administration and interpretation of collective bargaining agreements, represent employers in arbitration hearings, and appear on behalf of employers at all levels of the court system, as well as before the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Foreign Programs and Affiliations
Harris Beach attorneys review relationship agreements with foreign institutions and provide guidance managing foreign exchange programs offered by US colleges and universities. We also work closely with foreign counsel on matters related to international exchange programs which fall within their jurisdictions. Finally, we update our institutions with travel warnings issued by the Department of State to help protect the safety of students, faculty and staff.
We assist higher educational institutions with a variety of student-related immigration law issues. This includes providing guidance on F-1 visas which permit international students to attend US colleges and universities on a full-time basis. We also counsel on Optional Practical Training (OPT) which authorizes F-1 undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate students to work in the US. Additionally, we counsel higher educational institutions on J-1 visas for study or work visitor exchange programs as well as Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) compliance related to student enrollment and change in status reporting requirements.
Student and Residential Life
Harris Beach attorneys assist colleges and universities with advice and defense of claims arising out of student life matters, including drafting and revising policies for campus judicial procedures, human rights, accommodations for students with disabilities, residential life issues, fraternities and sororities, student clubs, campus safety and security, grievances, sexual harassment, alcohol use and computer use. We also draft and revise student handbooks and manuals in accordance with the objectives and mission of our higher educational institution clients.
Title IX Compliance
Non-Legal Professional Services Through Our Subsidiaries
Harris Beach recognizes that client solutions often involve more than just legal needs. Consequently, we offer a unique, comprehensive approach to meeting our clients’ pressing non-legal challenges through our affiliated consulting subsidiaries, HB Cornerstone LLC and HB Solutions LLC. These subsidiaries serve organizations in the public and private sectors and across numerous industries.
HB Cornerstone is a full-service owner representation consulting firm that helps organizations with real property development and management. The professionals in this group have considerable experience in owner representation, planning and design, facilities consulting and move management, which provides a complete solution for clients seeking to build, expand or move. HB Cornerstone takes responsibility for project communications, coordination, scheduling, budgets and overall management. By exclusively representing the owner, they are not restricted or conflicted by other construction roles, tasks or responsibilities. This helps to ensure that the clients’ best interests and the best interests of their projects are represented.
HB Cornerstone’s experience with educational institutions includes serving as the owner representative for classroom, art department, athletic facilities and university medical center expansions and a host of miscellaneous renovations, as well as providing due diligence related to college property acquisitions.
HB Solutions supports organizations with non-legal consulting related to education leadership, energy, health and human services, human resources, information technology, marketing and communications, and municipal and local agency assistance. HB Solutions’ professionals provide communications consulting on a wide range of matters involving personnel and operations issues, environmental issues, federal and state regulatory compliance, civil lawsuits and criminal investigations. The education and communications professionals serve as a resource to educational institutions for effective communications strategies for organizational changes or challenges, as well as controversial, crisis or complex situations.