Research and education are the twin pillars of a strong economy. However, the challenges facing colleges and universities today are greater than ever. Just as business has gone global, institutions are facing greater competition across national borders and often must address the regulatory regimes of numerous countries. Despite the recent economic recovery, public funding of education remains weak and educational endowments and other sources of income have not kept pace with inflation. Research and development activities, long a source of federal funding and licensing income, now bring a host of intellectual property-related challenges. And college athletics, the heart of institutional pride, are too often at the center of well-publicized scandals.
Hunton & Williams’ cross-disciplinary colleges and universities team provides coordinated counsel across the spectrum of legal and business challenges. We help institutions protect and preserve their financial and creative assets, attract and retain key academic and administrative leadership, finance critical infrastructure projects and resolve a range of civil and criminal disputes.
Our services include the following:
Hunton & Williams LLP’s public finance lawyers help educational institutions address virtually every significant legal issue that affects governmental financing and tax-exempt financing for private and public entities. We have served as bond counsel, special disclosure counsel and counsel to issuers, underwriters, trustees, credit enhancers and institutional investors in transactions throughout the United States. Our financings have covered all types of government obligations, including general obligation and revenue bonds for states and political subdivisions, including bonds for education, education infrastructure, conference centers and other projects. We have served as bond counsel, borrower’s counsel and underwriter’s counsel for tax-exempt financings for private colleges, research institutions and other 501(c)(3) institutions. We have developed a special team to assist public finance clients undergoing IRS audits, and we have negotiated closing agreements with the IRS to preserve the tax-exempt status of bonds.
Colleges, universities and other educational institutions facing legislative and regulatory challenges require sound and strategic advice to ensure that their views are heard in Congress, before regulatory agencies, in state capitals and among state attorneys general. The professionals in Hunton & Williams’ government relations practice have the skills, discretion and reputation to ensure that our clients’ views are given due consideration in the public policy debate. Our government relations team comprises lawyers and legislative professionals committed to representing our clients’ interests at all levels of local, regional and national government. Our wide-ranging practice blends legal and advocacy skills with strategic experience that has been developed over decades of work on an extensive variety of legislative, regulatory and policy projects. Our team includes several former counsel to congressional committees, as well as lawyers whose legal careers have focused on government relations matters.
Labor, Employment and Employee Benefits
Over the past several decades, the employment model for higher education has undergone a dramatic shift. Competition for top administrative, research and academic leadership has become increasingly fierce. At the same time, the changing economics of education have required increased reliance on part-time and adjunct faculty, who in turn are mobilizing and demanding greater job security and benefits. Hunton & Williams’ experienced labor, employment and employee benefits lawyers help institutions meet these challenges head on. We work with clients to develop, document, implement and manage the full range of employment policies, compensation and benefits plans and retirement plans. We work with key administrators to negotiate individual employment agreements, represent individuals and institutions in applying for and obtaining immigration visas for highly qualified staff, and provide strategic counsel that can help prevent or minimize the impact of organized labor movements on campus.
Our seasoned litigators and trial lawyers represent individuals and institutions in virtually every form of dispute, in courtrooms throughout the country as well as in arbitration and negotiated settlements. Our intellectual property lawyers provide effective counsel on matters involving patents, copyrights, trademarks and other IP assets, as well as in disputes arising out of joint-ventures, research, licensing and other agreements. Colleges and universities collect, store and manage a broad range of information, and our renowned data privacy and security team regularly advises clients in the assessment, investigation and litigation of matters arising from information security and data breach incidents, and the management, use and protection of personal, financial and health information. We also provide guidance on First Amendment and academic freedom issues, and regularly represent clients in appeals heard before federal and state appellate and supreme courts.
NCAA and Sports
College athletics can be a win-win for student athletes and institutions alike. In today’s media-saturated environment, however, they also create an unprecedented level of celebrity and pose significant financial and reputational risks for student athletes, coaches, administrators and institutions when individuals engage in thoughtless or destructive behavior. Hunton & Williams has developed a prevention program that helps prepare participants for the challenges that come with athletic success. We provide training on a broad range of issues, including criminal laws relating to misuse of drugs and alcohol, sexual assault, domestic violence and gambling; appropriate and inappropriate financial benefits and incentives; academic standards; social media and Internet-based communications; and dealing with pressure from family and former friends seeking to use the student athlete’s celebrity for personal gain. When allegations of misconduct arise, we work with clients to conduct internal investigations, cooperate with law enforcement and college athletics officials and develop effective media-relations strategies.
Privacy and Cybersecurity
In today’s digital economy, information has become a powerful asset to colleges and universities. At the same time, however, these institutions face unprecedented challenges in managing privacy and cybersecurity risks associated with the collection, use and disclosure of personal information regarding their students and employees, and the cybersecurity risks associated with the theft of valuable intellectual property. The complex framework of global legal requirements impacting the collection, use and disclosure of information makes it imperative that modern businesses have a sophisticated understanding of the issues if they want to effectively compete in today’s economy. Hunton & Williams’ global privacy and cybersecurity practice helps colleges and universities manage data at every step of the information life cycle. We have assisted clients with more than 1,000 data breaches worldwide. We bring practice groups from across the firm together to provide clients with the complete set of privacy and cybersecurity legal services, including: compliance with all federal and state information security requirements; compliance with international information security and breach notification requirements; comprehensive “breach coach” assistance in managing the full panoply of activities associated with a significant cybersecurity incident/data breach; reducing the risk of a cyber-event, including assistance with the development of information security policies, plans and procedures designed to prevent cyber intrusions; assistance with dispute resolution regarding cyber incidents and data breaches; assistance to companies that are the subject of cyber investigations led by the FBI and Secret Service; enforcement actions by the FTC and state attorneys general; insurance coverage; and litigation regarding liability, insurance coverage, contractual obligations and other issues.
Stadium, Arena and Other Facility Finance and Development
Hunton & Williams lawyers represent clients in the development, financing, renovation and use of stadiums, arenas and other facilities. These financing structures include public finance, lending, private equity and sponsorship funding. We also have experience with the sale of personal seat licenses, luxury suites and hotel room licenses in connection with such facilities.
White Collar Defense and Internal Investigations
Criminal misconduct, and allegations thereof, are not limited to large corporations. Colleges and universities are equally at risk, if not more so, when potential criminal conduct is identified. These risks are not limited to fines and jail time; they also can include civil enforcement proceedings. Government investigations also frequently result in third-party litigation, creating significant financial exposure. Our lawyers regularly represent clients in grand jury investigations and defend institutions and individuals in white collar criminal investigations and prosecutions across the United States, in parallel civil enforcement proceedings and in related third-party proceedings. We also conduct effective, credible and confidential internal investigations that help clients proactively identify and address misconduct before such matters become public.
Sexual Misconduct and Hazing
Few issues generate more controversy on college and university campuses than sexual misconduct or hazing. While increased reporting rates are to be applauded, each allegation of sexual assault or abuse threatens to divide university communities and damage the lives and reputations of individuals and institutions. Hunton & Williams can help educators and administrators maintain a delicate balance: addressing allegations promptly, fairly and openly, without violating the privacy of the alleged victim or perpetrator. We work with institutions to ensure compliance with the complex set of laws and regulations that govern an institution’s response. Our team includes former prosecutors, government affairs professionals and a professor of criminal justice with significant experience conducting independent, confidential compliance reviews and investigations. We help athletic teams and Greek organizations devise and establish training, prevention and risk management programs before allegations arise, and — when potential misconduct is identified — work closely with institutional stakeholders, student groups, community organizations and law enforcement officials to provide victim support and coordinate investigative efforts. We also provide crisis management counseling and advice on public and alumni relations.
We offer a comprehensive array of tax counseling and controversy services to tax-exempt organizations and public institutions, including guidance on corporate governance and fiduciary duty issues; executive compensation and director fees; acquisitions, dispositions, spin-offs, mergers, for-profit and nonprofit conversions, joint ventures and other transactions; tax audits, litigation, alternative dispute resolution and other controversies; internal investigations and embezzlement; fundraising and charitable solicitation issues; unrelated business taxable income; exemption requirements for tax-exempt hospitals; IRS and state tax reporting; and private inurement and private benefit issues. Our combination of technical tax knowledge and broad-based support in non-tax areas is essential in the complex — and sometimes hostile — legal environment in which today’s exempt organizations must operate.
About the Firm
Hunton & Williams LLP is an AmLaw 100 firm with more than 750 lawyers practicing across the United States, Europe and Asia. Founded in 1901 by four lawyers in Richmond, Virginia, we have grown to our current size and global reach organically and through strategic mergers and key lateral partner acquisitions. Our experience in virtually every key legal discipline blends with a broad view of current business realities and a forward-looking perspective on emerging issues to provide legal and regulatory advice that serves our clients well.