Higher education plays an influential role in shaping the future workforce of the United States and, by extension, the country’s economy. With two Board of Trustee chairs and former chairs of major universities, several other Smith Anderson attorneys serving as members of university and college boards, and the firm’s extensive network of higher education clients, Smith Anderson is uniquely positioned to understand the issues impacting public and private institutions of higher education.
Smith Anderson lawyers serve as outside general counsel, special counsel and advisors to: public and private institutions of higher education, including universities, community colleges, technical schools and research institutions; religious institutions; academic medical centers; and foundations, as well as the boards of such institutions. This expansive knowledge enables lawyers to advise higher education institutions and provide training on a broad array of legal matters, including: board governance, investigations, compliance, employment, joint ventures, contracting and litigation. Additionally, technology attorneys at Smith Anderson regularly work with university spinouts in licensing and commercializing the foundational technology developed at the universities.
One of the firm’s longstanding traditions is a commitment to community and professional leadership and Smith Anderson lawyers proudly hold influential positions in institutes of higher education located across North Carolina. Of note:
- Two Smith Anderson lawyers are the immediate past chairs of the Boards of Trustees for UNC-Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University, two of the nation’s top 30 universities, both of which are members of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)
- One Smith Anderson lawyer is a current member of the Board of Trustees for Wake Forest University
- One of the firm’s lawyers is Dean of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law, and is the only lawyer in the modern history of the Law School to be appointed to the deanship from the practicing bar
- Numerous lawyers serve as members of university and college boards
- Numerous lawyers hold leadership positions in alumni associations, councils and engagement committees
- Multiple lawyers serve as adjunct professors and lecturers
- Serve as outside general employment and human resources counsel for community colleges, four-year universities and HBCUs.
- Served as independent counsel to investigate allegations of discrimination, harassment and other misconduct, equal pay and compensation.
- Engaged as special counsel to develop and conduct training programs on Section 504/Americans with Disabilities Act, FLSA compliance, and work health issues.
- Represent colleges and universities on defined benefit, 403(b), DOL and IRS audits and compensation matters.
- Advised a college about qualified retirement plan compliance issues and the steps necessary to correct a widespread operational problem involving the inadvertent inclusion of work-study employees and adjunct faculty.
- Advise Boards of Trustees on employment agreements for presidents.
- Advise a community college on procurement, including on RFP drafting for a large procurement of equipment that had some innovative approaches to how bidders could respond.
- Advise a community college on its facility, construction and land use and entitlement matters.
- Defended a college in a Title VII religion discrimination case in the Eastern District of North Carolina. The Plaintiff took a dismissal with prejudice before being deposed.
- Defended a college in an employment case in the Eastern District of North Carolina and the 4th Circuit. Our motion to dismiss was granted, and the order was affirmed on appeal.
- Defended a college in a Title VII (race), ADA, and ADEA case in the Eastern District of North Carolina. The Court granted our motion to dismiss and the case is on appeal to the Fourth Circuit.
- Defended a college in the North Carolina Business Court in a case involving allegations of Chapter 75 and antitrust violations. The case settled after we argued our motion to dismiss.
- Advised universities, colleges and community college on data privacy and cybersecurity issues.
- Advised a community college in the defense of potential NC OSHA enforcement action, and also provided regulatory compliance advice.
- Represented a community college in connection with Charges of Discrimination filed with the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and complaints filed with the N. C. Department of Labor.
- Assisted a community college’s investigation into and processing of grievances filed by current and former employees, and pre-litigation resolution of one grievance
- Regularly advise “work health” (ADA, FMLA, GINA) matters, including but not limited to leaves of absence, accommodations for disabilities, correspondence with healthcare providers, workers compensation, short- and long-term disability coverage, etc.
- Regularly advise on wage and hour issues, including but not limited to FLSA classification and reclassification, independent contractor classification, compensability of training time, analysis of work time, recoupment of overpayments, deductions from pay, travel and meal expenses, etc.
- Advised a community college on First Amendment rights of employees.
- Advised a community college on employee relations matters, internal investigations into employee complaints, and disciplinary matters (counseling, warnings, performance improvement plans, suspensions, terminations).
- Advised a community college on a college-wide FLSA classification review.
- Advised on Title IX investigations into student complaints regarding on- and off-campus conduct.
- Advised on potential conflicts of interest of employees.
- Reviewed and revised various policies and procedures.
- Advised on Fair Credit Reporting Act obligations in connection with background checks on prospective and current employees and developed required forms for background checks and drug testing.
- Advised on public records requests for employee records, and requests for student records under FERPA and applicable state law.
- Advised community college on formation of 501(c)(3) services corporation.
- Advised community college on trademark needs, specifically, managing the college’s trademark portfolio (including maintenance filings and responding to USPTO inquiries) and preparing and filing new trademark applications.
- Advised on compliance with state procurement laws, including competitive bidding requirements.
- Advised a community college on the preparation of RFPs to ensure compliance with State procurement requirements.
- Advised a community college on contract disputes with vendors regarding interpretation of contract terms and RFP provisions.
- Advised a community college on responding to State Auditor inquiries and subpoenas for student records which implicated FERPA protections.
Human Resources and Civil Rights
- ADA and Section 504 compliance and defense, including ADA III Accessibility and Accommodation
- Affirmative Action Programs and OFCCP compliance reviews
- Employment agreements, employee benefits and executive compensation
- Employment-related litigation and alternative dispute resolution
- Federal and state labor and employment law compliance, policy development, best practices and training
- Government investigations and administrative proceedings
- Internal investigations involving sexual misconduct, harassment, discrimination and code of conduct violations
- OSHA investigations, defense and compliance
- Pay equity analyses, Equal Pay Act and Title VII compensation compliance
- Title IX investigations, compliance and best practices
- Whistleblowing risk management and defense
- Workplace climate assessments
For more information, contact Kim Korando.
- Charitable giving and endowments
- Contract law and procurement
- Environmental safety
- Financing and investments
- Foundations and auxiliary non-profit organizations
- Information technology (data use, privacy and cybersecurity, including GDPR, HIPAA, and FERPA)
- Intellectual property
- Licensing and commercializing technology of university spinouts
- Real estate, design and construction
For more information, contact Gerald Roach.
Governance and Leadership
- Board compliance
- Establishing appropriate process for supervision and decision making
- Establishment of special committees and roles of outside experts
- Institutional reputation and social media
- Role of board and role of administration
For more information, contact Gerald Roach.
Litigation and Dispute Resolution
- Administrative Law
- First Amendment and Other Civil Rights Claims
- Insurance Recovery Litigation and Counseling
- Personal Injury and Other Tort Liability
- Title IX
For more information, contact Cliff Brinson.
News & Publications
- Business North Carolina Magazine, 05.20.2021
- UNC-Chapel Hill, 07.16.2019
- Wake Forest Magazine, Spring 2019, 02.28.2019
- Smith Anderson Attorney Richard Stevens Receives the NC Chamber’s Distinguished Public Service Award03.28.2017