Higher Education

For more than 85 years, Bass, Berry & Sims has provided higher education institutions with sophisticated and effective counsel to navigate the legal challenges and regulatory scrutiny unique to academic organizations. The practice is led by the former general counsel for a large private research university and unites attorneys with a broad variety of experience who understand the distinct issues facing the higher education industry and are ready to partner with the institution to deliver effective legal advice. The firm has deep experience representing higher education institutions in the public, private, religious, and academic medical sectors.

Our multidisciplinary team provides a full range of services in addressing the specific needs and objectives of higher education, with an intensive focus on the following:

  • Assisting with the “Business” of the University.
  • Faculty Affairs.
  • Protecting & Commercializing Technology & Research.
  • Student Affairs.

In addition, the team leverages the firm’s deep experience in an array of legal areas to represent and counsel clients in matters related to:

  • Labor and employment.
  • Transactions and technology licensing.
  • Data breach and data privacy.
  • Regulatory compliance.
  • Internal investigations.
  • Litigation.
  • Healthcare.
  • Public finance and bond issuance.
  • Employee benefits.
  • Public safety and risk management.

Areas of Focus

  • Assisting with the "Business" of the University
    • Advising on the full lifecycle of issues associated with data generation, collection, storage, analytics, security, and data breach.
    • Assisting in the real estate development and construction of higher education-related projects.
    • Securing bond financing for universities and colleges to fund various projects on campus, such as the construction, renovation, additions and maintenance to the universities residence halls, academic and administrative buildings, and campus infrastructure.
    • Serving as underwriter’s counsel to various financial institutions in conjunction with financing projects for universities improvement projects.
    • Working with college and university administration on the full range of employee benefits, ERISA, and executive compensation matters.
  • Protecting & Commercializing Technology & Research
    • Registering trademarks and prosecuting trademark infringements.
    • Drafting and negotiating technology, licensing and commercial agreements on behalf of the university or college.
    • Litigating intellectual property disputes.
    • Counseling research universities on managing the trade compliance challenges unique to the university setting.
    • Assisting research universities with issues related to U.S. export controls, including issues under the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), and U.S. economic sanctions.
    • Drafting compliance policies and procedures to ensure universities are in compliance with export controls.
  • Faculty Affairs
    • Representing colleges and universities in claims brought by employees related to discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination.
    • Providing guidance on issues related to tenure, including denial of tenure and disciplinary action or termination of tenured faculty.
    • Counseling institutions in compliance and claims defense related to various federal regulations, including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Title IX, Title VI, Title VII, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
    • Advising clients in unionization efforts by graduate students, staff and faculty, including NLRB proceedings surrounding union efforts.
  • Student Affairs
    • Counseling on Title IX, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) complaints and other issues related to student misconduct, including issues involving Student Honor Council, student disciplinary actions and litigation brought by students contesting disciplinary decisions.
    • Advising in matters abroad, including crisis management situations involving student and faculty living in unstable or high-risk countries and regions, arrests, evacuation and other safety risks.
    • Representing organizations involved in student claims of gender discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation.
    • Providing guidance on matters related to student health and wellness, including mental healthcare matters in accordance with the ADA.
    • Creating and implementing risk management strategies that reflect the institution’s unique campus culture, mitigate the risk associated with these issues and comply with OCR’s guidance; evaluating the effectiveness of these policies and procedures; and advising on the investigation of related complaints.
Audrey J. Anderson
Lillian M. Blackshear
Robert L. Brewer
Robert E. Cooper Jr.
David R. Esquivel
Pro Bono Member
Davidson French
Tim K. Garrett
Clint D. Hermes
Brian Irving
Ashleigh Karnell
Thaddeus R. McBride
Russell A. Miller
Paige Waldrop Mills
Fritz Richter, III
Danielle M. Sloane
Briana Sprick Schuster
Kimberly S. Veirs