The operational concerns of educational institutions extend beyond those of traditional businesses. We counsel colleges and universities nationwide on their wide-ranging needs, from labor relations and real estate development to complex financing issues and the protection of intellectual property.

Our team is made up of attorneys from practices throughout the firm, working together to address the many needs of the higher education sector. Our experience in the private sector brings depth to our representation of nonprofit educational and research clients. Our knowledge of the higher education industry demonstrates an understanding of its mission.

We represent colleges, universities, research institutions, teaching hospitals, and educational foundations in matters involving:

  • Asset management
  • Employee benefits and executive compensation
  • Employment and labor relations
  • Response to sexual misconduct
  • Environmental resource and remediation issues
  • Affiliations, reorganizations, and acquisitions
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Intellectual property
  • Export controls and compliance
  • Real estate development, construction, zoning, and land use
  • Taxation
  • Tax-exempt and taxable finance
  • White collar litigation 


We have one of the country's leading employee benefits and executive compensation practices. As counsel to a large number of higher education clients, our attorneys are on top of regulatory developments and handle the most complex issues. We advise on retirement, health and welfare, and compensation arrangements. We also counsel in-house human resources and legal personnel on benefit plans, taxation issues, vendor contracts, and compliance.


Our attorneys are familiar with the sensitive nature of complex labor relations issues that can arise in a university setting and have the experience to bring about resolution. We also understand the day-to-day employment issues that can affect the tenor of campus life.

We have more than 30 years of experience in faculty negotiations and often serve as chief negotiator. We know how to forge positive relationships with organized labor while aggressively advocating the legal positions of our higher education clients. Our team has represented higher education clients before the National Labor Relations Board and has successfully counseled universities during strikes.

We assist clients in navigating:

  • All forms of discrimination claims
  • All forms of harassment claims
  • Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Wage and hour laws
  • Enforcement of employment, non-compete, and confidentiality agreements
  • First Amendment issues
  • Wrongful termination claims

Institutional Response to Sexual Misconduct

In the area of sexual violence and sexual harassment, colleges and universities are responsible for the prevention, investigation, evaluation, and adjudication of sexual assault allegations. Our attorneys help higher education clients develop policies and procedures that implement an institution's core values, ensure an effective response, and mitigate risk.

We promote an educated, balanced approach that helps schools develop competencies, coordinate constituencies, and sequence a consistent institutional response. We help clients improve decision-making, achieve compliance with state and federal mandates, and implement processes that ensure an effective response that is consistent with the institution's goals.

University Athletics

Our attorneys represent universities and their athletic departments in the negotiation and drafting of athletic endorsements and in the financing and development of sports facilities. We advise college athletic departments on matters involving NCAA eligibility and compliance and Title IX. We have represented universities and student-athletes in NCAA investigations, performed internal compliance investigations, and guided universities through the NCAA Clearinghouse. We also negotiate employment agreements for college coaches and provide counsel on employment termination and contract extension.


Our environmental attorneys maintain continuous working relationships with university counsel and facilities personnel, ensuring responsive and imaginative support in this complex regulatory area.

Our services include advising on sustainability and climate change issues, the acquisition and development of environmentally impaired property, and compliance and enforcement. We handle air, wastewater, storm water, hazardous and solid waste, and storage tank regulatory matters, and design and implement environmental compliance audits.

Our litigation team can handle Superfund and related disputes concerning the disposal of hazardous substances. We have experience with Environmental Protection Agency and state and local environmental enforcement actions. We also have represented research universities and health care units in investigations by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Transportation.


The world of finance has never been more complicated nor subject to more regulation. We counsel higher education clients on endowment funding, investment subsidiaries, management documentation for university funds, and the purchase and sale of proprietary, post-secondary institutions and branches.

We advise on the many federal and state laws that govern federally guaranteed student loan programs, private student loan programs, tuition payment plans, and school credit card, debit card, and stored-value card programs. We also defend putative action and individual lawsuits and arbitration proceedings involving these regulations.

Our public finance attorneys have served as bond counsel, underwriter's counsel, borrower's counsel, or credit enhancer counsel in billions of dollars in bond issues. We have experience with education-related financings, including bond issues for student housing and student loan programs. Ballard Spahr was named Public Finance Law Firm of the Year by U.S. News & World Report in 2017 and was ranked as one of the top ten law firms in the country in the category of Higher Education Bond Counsel by Thomson Reuters in 2016. 


We assist higher education institutions in the formation of affiliations, joint ventures, reorganizations, and mergers and acquisitions of hospitals, health care systems, and physician practices. Our team advises on the structure of corporate relationships with health care institutions, providers, and research organizations. We also provide counseling and guidance on:

  • Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial reimbursement disputes
  • Privacy and data security laws and regulations
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Compliance issues
  • Contract negotiations for the purchase of electronic medical records and billing systems
  • Responses to subpoenas and government inquiries


Our attorneys work with higher education clients worldwide to promote and protect the commercialization of ideas and inventions. We represent university technology transfer offices and research institutions in drafting licensing agreements with startup, emerging, and large public companies.

Our attorneys advise on:

  • Patent procurement
  • Technology transfer licensing
  • Protection of trademark and copyright portfolios
  • Branding services
  • All manner of litigation, worldwide
  • Naming rights

Through the firm's BASE (Ballard Academy for Student Entrepreneurs) program, our attorneys work in conjunction with university technology transfer offices to foster the growth and development of technology and life sciences companies in the regions where we have offices. BASE works creatively with higher education clients to counsel and connect fledgling companies to those that can commercialize their technology.

Export Controls and Compliance

The U.S. government monitors and regulates the transfer of goods, technology, software, services, and information to foreign nationals and foreign destinations. We represent universities that employ foreign nationals or that have foreign nationals participating in scientific or engineering research in order to ensure compliance with export laws and export restrictions.

Our attorneys handle international export compliance matters involving the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), and Arms Export Control Act (AECA). We assist in meeting licensing and Form I-129 requirements, establishing and strengthening compliance programs, handling investigations and enforcement, and providing related training.


Litigators assist colleges and universities in compliance matters, including health care and environmental regulations. We counsel in matters of premises liability, fraternity issues, and labor and employment issues, as well as general litigation.

We also have represented clients in criminal proceedings, including responding to investigations and criminal charges. Our white collar litigators are accomplished, seasoned professionals with significant experience in high-stakes matters. We routinely guide colleges and universities through challenges, advising on issues involving communications with law enforcement, Clery Act requirements, disciplinary proceedings, federal and state requirements, and the interplay of civil and criminal proceedings.


Our nationally recognized real estate team has represented higher education clients on a wide range of matters, including site acquisition, land use, zoning, planning, development, construction, financing, and leasing.

Several Ballard Spahr attorneys are LEED Accredited Professionals as documented by the U.S. Green Building Council. As such, they are in a unique position to help develop and implement programs to promote sustainability, green building, and cost-effective projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Our attorneys have experience working with government agencies and neighborhood associations and have successfully represented universities in construction-related mediation, arbitration, and litigation proceedings.


Our tax attorneys address all types of federal, state, and local tax issues as they relate to the business of higher education and research. We provide tax structuring advice for the acquisition, construction, and development of real estate as well as for investment transactions for endowments and reserves. We advise on the tax consequences of privatization transactions, management contracts, sponsored research agreements, royalty and licensing agreements, and other arrangements that utilize the resources of private business for the benefit of higher education.

We work with clients on matters of:

  • Unrelated business taxable income (UBTI)
  • Excess benefit problems
  • Charitable giving
  • Private enterprise partnerships
  • Tax-exempt bonds


William C. Rhodes
Practice Leader
Tel 215.864.8534