Higher Education

With more than 40 years of experience, Norris McLaughlin higher education attorneys have represented colleges and universities in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York with a broad range of legal needs.  The following describes our services offered in greater detail.

Advice and Counsel/Transactional

Norris McLaughlin higher education attorneys have varied and extensive experience in the representation of public and private colleges and universities in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.  Our work has included involvement in governance issues (from open public meetings issues, resolution preparation and advice) to interpretation of statutory and administrative pronouncements and requirements.  We have also had involvement in issues involving funding and governmental audits/oversight.  We have rendered advice on policies and procedures and the assessment of risk. We have advised on compliance with FERPA, VAWA, Clery, and other federal and state regulatory requirements. We have assisted educational institutions in OCR investigations and U.S. Department of Educations and State Department of Educations audits.

Most specialized groups within the firm have been utilized in our representation of educational institutions.  We have represented educational institutes in numerous litigated matters before state and federal courts and administrative agencies on such subjects as contractual disputes, tort claims defense, defense of employment discrimination and civil rights matters and we have defended university disciplinary actions.  We have provided environmental advice and representation.  We have also advised on a myriad of issues including pay-to-play restrictions for public institutions.  We have provided a full range of transactional services including drafting agreements, proposals, licenses and leases.  We have also been involved in the largest merger in U.S. history of higher educational institutions.  We have also assisted private groups in obtaining state approval for the formation of a college and are assisting same in seeking Middle States accreditation.


Colleges and universities have sought the advice of Norris McLaughlin attorneys in litigated matters in state and federal courts within New York and New Jersey, and before administrative agencies. The firm is experienced in the defense of tort claims (including sexual assault, assault, social host and dram shop, premises liability and lack of or inadequate security, products liability, libel and slander, sports injuries, negligence, slip and fall, traffic accidents, admiralty, and dangerous conditions). The firm has defended cases alleging failure to regulate or control student misconduct, fraternities, and sororities. It has also defended cases in state and federal courts alleging civil rights and constitutional violations. The firm is intimately familiar with the New Jersey Tort Claims Act and the protections it affords public colleges and universities.

For the firm’s higher education clients, its attorneys have defended and asserted breach of contract and environmental claims as well as asserting fraud, and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing. On behalf of these clients, the firm has also handled insurance coverage issues. Norris McLaughlin Higher Education attorneys’ advice and defense of claims includes those arising out of student life matters, including student demonstrations and protest to student press issues.  These attorneys have frequently rendered advice on privacy issues under FERPA and under the common law.

Labor and Employment

For institutions of higher education, the firm advises on faculty detenuring and assists in training on employee hiring, progressive discipline, workplace violence, background checks, sexual harassment, and employee termination and rifts. The firm also advises and negotiates employment and severance agreements, including the preparation and implementation of policies and employee handbooks. Attorneys defend employment discrimination claims ranging from sexual harassment, age, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy, national origin, and religious discrimination and retaliation claims under state and federal law. The firm has handled matters before the NLRB and PERG.  In addition, the firm handles matters before the EEOC, state agencies, and in state and federal courts.  We have defended U.S. Department of Higher Education OCR complaints.  We have also consulted on the applicability of forfeiture of public employment.

Health Care

In conjunction with the higher education attorneys, the Norris McLaughlin Health Care & Life Sciences Group provides a variety of services to clients throughout the health care field, including highly specialized work in the regulatory areas governing the delivery of health care services under state and federal law. For the firm’s college and university clients that have health services such as hospitals or student health clinics, its attorneys advise academic institutions on their obligations under HIPAA and other privacy compliance legislation, as well as informing them of consent requirements and other regulatory requirements.


Norris McLaughlin provides a full-service immigration practice utilizing trained professionals with extensive experience in the field of immigration law. Its attorneys are experienced in working with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Department of Labor, Department of State, and foreign consulates to bring individuals to the U.S. to work, study, or just visit.

Student Discipline

Norris McLaughlin is well-versed in assisting in the revision of student codes of discipline and conducting training for its participants. Attorneys from the firm have prosecuted matters before student disciplinary hearing boards. They have also defended legal actions challenging, on constitutional or other grounds, student disciplinary matters.


Norris McLaughlin has represented university police forces, providing training for these clients, in addition to legal advice and representation in the prosecution of disorderly persons charges, traffic, DWI, probable cause hearings and the defense of motions to suppress in municipal court and on appeal on trials de novo in the Superior Court of New Jersey and in the appellate courts.

The firm has also defended civil actions against police for charges of excessive force, assault, false arrest, and malicious prosecution, as well as claims under 42 U.S. C. § 1983, 1985 in state and federal courts.

Norris McLaughlin is experienced in advising university administrators in Grand Jury matters and presentments and has rendered opinions and advice on Megan’s Law and the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990 (Clery Act).

Intellectual Property

Norris McLaughlin provides a broad range of intellectual property services to campus leaders, working closely with their respective institutions to complete the licensing of university technologies, to provide legal advice on copyright issues, technology transfer, and to protect trademarks and symbols associated with the college or university.  The firm’s attorneys are experienced in the preparation and prosecution of patent trademark and copyright applications.  They also offer litigation, arbitration, and dispute resolutions services when the need arises.


The attorneys in the firm’s Higher Education Group represent colleges and universities with their construction project needs, from planning to completion, addressing their related disputes along the way,  The firm represents higher education clients in a wide variety of projects including office buildings, athletic facilities, classrooms, affiliate hospitals and student health care facilities, research facilities, student centers, dormitories, and libraries, as well as assist with their logistical construction needs including roads, utilities, and communications.

Most useful to colleges and universities is the firm’s understanding of construction contracts and litigation.  Attorneys are well-versed in contract negotiations, risk allocation, bonding and insurance, competitive and public bidding requirements, construction management, design, and development, among other construction issues.  In an effort to best serve these clients, Higher Education attorneys team up with attorneys from other groups within the firm to aid with construction financing issues.

Real Estate & Land Use

Norris McLaughlin attorneys are experienced in real estate transactions and land use matters facing colleges and universities, including conveyances and leasing, government rules and permitting, federal and state regulatory compliance, real estate-related litigation, real property tax appeals, and real estate financing, and public housing projects.


Because institutions of higher education are subject to a web of federal, state and local environmental and safety legislation and regulation, Norris McLaughlin has prepared itself to meet their broad range of environmental legal needs. The firm provides a wide range of environmental counseling and litigation services including real estate development and related financing, as well as zoning and environmental compliance issues. Higher education clients utilize the abilities of the Group’s attorneys on matters regarding administrative and judicial proceedings before state and federal courts and agencies, litigation arising from hazardous substances, toxic tort claims, defense of actions filed by adjoining, predecessor, and successor property owners, underground storage tank laws, environmental permits and approvals for hazardous waste storage, transportation and disposal, compliance with the reporting and disclosure requirements imposed by OSHA and the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (“SARA”), and design and implementation of environmental audits utilizing federal and state enforcement leniency programs.


Norris McLaughlin helps its higher education clients to navigate the complex and evolving state and federal laws and regulations governing medical and recreational use of cannabis.  In particular, the firm provides counseling to higher education institutions on legal issues related to the research and development of industrial hemp under state-regulated pilot hemp programs, guides them on the impact of federal funding on an institution’s ability to participate in the cannabis industry on the research level, and assesses overall risks and benefits related to an institution’s participation in the field of cannabis.


The firm’s tax attorneys provide services in four main areas:  business tax, employee benefits, trusts and estates, and tax controversy. Many colleges and universities are tax-exempt entities and therefore seek the advice of Norris McLaughlin attorneys in the areas of forming tax-exempt entities, obtaining and retaining tax-exempt status, obtaining tax-exempt financing, defending compensation planning and charitable giving. The firm also provides advice on federal and state income, gift and estate tax issues relevant to charitable giving, aid in the establishment and operation of current and deferred charitable giving programs, and assistance with the preparation of charitable trust agreements.  We have also assisted higher educational institutions in deferred compensation, pension and retirement plans.


Norris McLaughlin has experienced bankruptcy attorneys resident in all of its offices, with substantial experience representing creditors, debtors and other parties in bankruptcy cases throughout the country. The firm provides services to colleges and universities with respect to issues which arise during and after the bankruptcy proceeding of a student or a member of the student’s family.  The services which the  firm provides include representation in litigation regarding the dischargeability of student loans, advice regarding withholding of transcripts of students whose tuition obligation has been discharged in their bankruptcy proceeding,  filing claims in bankruptcy cases, representation of educational institutions in “clawback” litigation by trustees of parents who paid tuition for their children and subsequently filed for bankruptcy, and representation of higher education institutions in discrimination claims resulting from bankruptcy filings.

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