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Parker Poe has one of the largest and most experienced education law teams in the Southeast. We have over 40 attorneys who advise K-12 public and private schools, charter schools, and colleges and universities. Our clients range from rural school districts with fewer than 500 students to large metro districts with over 100,000 students, as well as from small, private colleges to flagship public university systems. We have represented educational institutions in every type of legal need that arises — we can hit the ground running with you.

Our understanding of the unique needs of schools and colleges comes from decades of experience and a cross-disciplinary practice featuring attorneys with deep knowledge of cybersecurity and data privacy, disability law, employment decisions, intellectual property, public finance, real estate, and Title IX compliance, as just a few examples.

We regularly serve as outside general counsel, with education clients turning to us for strategic guidance on how to bring the mission and vision of their institutions to life. We have a politically savvy group that is adept at shepherding clients through sensitive issues and providing practical counsel.

Our attorneys are deeply committed to education, many of them former educators themselves. Clients often consider us an extension of their team because of how we understand their culture, keep them abreast of legal and broader educational trends, and help them find a path to achieve their goals.

Areas of Focus

Campus Improvements, Expansion & Development

Our team assists educational institutions with the full cycle of real estate services and has specific experience in the mechanisms that colleges and universities often utilize, such as public-private partnerships for developing campus improvements. Our experience includes:

  • Serving as counsel for real estate acquisitions, dispositions, leases, financings, title examinations and due diligence inspections, development and construction contracts, and title insurance needs, including title claims.
  • Counseling North Carolina State University in connection with the development of Centennial Campus, including potential public-private partnerships by the university to benefit students, researchers, public agencies, and businesses.
  • Advising Duke University and Duke University Hospital in connection with new construction and renovation projects, as well as supplier disputes.
  • Providing counsel to a university in an arrangement with its foundation in the development and lease of multiple student housing projects.
  • Advising a university in connection with the design and construction of a central energy plant resulting in a positive resolution for the university.

Collegiate Athletics

We represent college athletic departments in all of their legal needs, with an understanding that they have millions of dollars at stake in business dealings such as intellectual property and licensing, must comply with changing regulatory regimes such as Title IX and NCAA rules, and often are financing new facilities. Our counsel includes:

  • Providing strategic planning for new projects.
  • Advising on Title IX compliance, investigations, and litigation for athletes, coaches, and administrators.
  • Helping colleges, universities, and athletic departments navigate the evolving world of NCAA name, image, and likeness (NIL) issues, including setting up compliance policies and pursuing opportunities for NIL contracts.
  • Consulting on NCAA compliance, investigations, and appeals.
  • Guiding clients through construction and finance needs.
  • Advising on licensing and intellectual property.
  • Leading clients through changing conference affiliations and sports offerings.
  • Advising on legal aspects related to alternative revenue streams.
  • Representing institutions in negotiating and preparing coaching and executive contracts.
  • Addressing pay equity, wage and hour issues, compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and matters before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Cybersecurity & Data Privacy

Our team includes six attorneys who have earned certifications from the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), which provides the global gold standard for data privacy certifications. Our experience includes:

  • Providing counsel to clients following large-scale data breaches that prompted government investigations, data breach remediation, and cybersecurity improvements, including representing an education technology vendor in the aftermath of one of the largest breaches impacting K-12 data.
  • Developing comprehensive, up-to-date information security programs based on the unique needs of educational institutions, including compliance requirements under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), U.S. Department of Education, and HIPAA where applicable.
  • Training education clients on all relevant data privacy regulations to equip staff with the knowledge they need to stay in compliance and avoid costly penalties, including related to Title IV Federal Student Aid Programs.
  • Assessing data practices and risks, reviewing vendor agreements and regulatory exposure, and developing incident response plans.

Employment, Immigration & Executive Compensation

We are experienced in representing education institutions in virtually every type of employment and labor issue, including litigation, employee benefits, tax, immigration, legislative representation, and structuring contracts for highly paid employees. Our experience includes:

  • Handling faculty tenure and contract renewal/non-renewal issues, including internal administrative proceedings and constitutional issues affecting public institutions.
  • Drafting and revising student, faculty, and staff handbooks.
  • Defending clients against all types of federal discrimination claims, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charges, Department of Justice investigations, Department of Education and Office of Civil Rights investigations.
  • Representing universities and K-12 systems in reductions in force.
  • Helping clients investigate allegations of discrimination and retaliation and carry out their procedural due process.
  • Advising on leave management, including under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Providing counsel on executive compensation for college presidents, K-12 superintendents, and other education leaders, including conducting compensation studies and negotiating initial contracts and exit packages.
  • Providing employee benefits representation on such matters as 403(b) and other retirement programs, 457 and non-qualified executive compensation plans, tax-exemption issues (including compliance with intermediate sanctions rules and special rules applicable to church-related plans), and medical and other welfare plans.
  • Handling visa and immigration matters affecting students, faculty, and staff.
  • Handling workers' compensation claims from initial reporting to litigation.

Finance & Tax

We have vast experience advising on education clients' finance and tax needs, including routinely assisting chief financial officers, boards, and superintendents. Our experience includes:

  • Serving as bond counsel for 14 of the 16 universities in the University of North Carolina system, private colleges, secondary schools, and charter schools.
  • Representing a large New York issuer in the issuance of nearly $1 billion of pooled school district bonds.
  • Representing school districts in education special purpose local option sales tax (ESPLOST) referenda, implementation, and compliance.
  • Assisting with drafting and issuing tax anticipation notes, general obligation bonds, and qualified school construction bonds.
  • Drafting and negotiating intergovernmental agreements for the contribution of educational taxes to tax allocation districts (also known as tax increment financing) in support of economic development.
  • Reviewing and advising school districts on the business and finance impacts of "bonds-for-title" (or "bond-lease") projects proposed by development authorities.
  • Advising on niche tax issues related to public finance transactions.
  • Advising on school construction using new markets tax credit financing. 
  • Working with banks and underwriters on public offerings and other finance transactions for education clients, such as serving as underwriter's counsel on deals involving Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University, and Morgan State University.

Governance & Policy

Appropriate policy development and governance are critical tools to avoid costly litigation and prevent legal challenges. It also permits boards and leaders to appropriately and lawfully communicate their processes and expectations to stakeholders. Our experience includes:

  • Achieving accreditation and school improvement benchmarks.
  • Developing, implementing, and revising a broad range of policies.
  • Advising on open meetings, open records, and other sunshine laws.
  • Training boards on governance vs. management best practices.
  • Navigating elections, redistricting, and U.S. Department of Justice validation.

Intellectual Property

We have extensive experience helping education clients develop, register, enforce, and commercialize their intellectual property rights. Our experience includes:

  • Assisting with registration, maintenance, protection, and defense of trademarks and copyrights.
  • Helping clients maximize the benefits of their intellectual property assets through licensing, donation, sale, technology transfer, and other creative methods.
  • Managing the trademark portfolios of universities across North Carolina.
  • Assisting with various rebranding campaigns related to individual schools, alumni groups, and other affinity groups at multiple institutions in the UNC System.
  • Counseling UNC System universities on the commercialization of their inventions, including the preparation and negotiation of tech transfer license agreements monetizing proprietary patents and software.

Internal Investigations

We have handled a broad range of internal investigations for K-12 and higher education clients. Our experience includes:

  • Handling high-profile internal investigations involving campus protests and athletic departments that were the subject of extensive media coverage.
  • Conducting sensitive internal investigations involving allegations of sexual assault and Title IX complaints.
  • Handling internal investigations related to employment, faculty tenure, Department of Education inquiries, and other issues.
  • Offering advice and representation in internal disciplinary board hearings and procedures involving students, faculty, and staff, as well as special student life issues.
  • Working with education clients facing prosecution or government investigations, both state and federal.
  • Counseling clients by designing and implementing compliance and detection policies to identify and avoid risks.


We have decades of experience representing education clients in and outside of the courtroom, including in high-profile cases with widespread media exposure. Our experience includes:

  • Representing clients in jury trials, state and federal court appeals, briefs filed in the U.S. Supreme Court, and class actions, including class certification proceedings and collective claims.
  • Advising clients in all levels of state and federal courts throughout the Southeast, before regulatory boards, and in investigations by government agencies.
  • Representing educational institutions and school districts in lawsuits implicating civil rights, from prelitigation advice and counseling through trials and appeals.
  • Acting as special litigation counsel for colleges and universities in statewide issues, such as the successful defense of North Carolina's tuition reimbursement program for private universities.
  • Responding to inquiries and complaints involving Title VI and Title IX, as well as other federal statutory or regulatory requirements.
  • Defending educational institutions against contractual, personal injury, and other claims brought by people inside and outside of the college, university, or school community, including claims relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Pursuing trademark enforcement actions at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) against companies and individuals infringing on universities' intellectual property rights.

Outside General Counsel

Our attorneys have decades of experience providing all legal services to education clients. In Georgia alone, we serve as outside general counsel to public school districts collectively representing more than 250,000 students and $4.5 billion budgets, including Atlanta Public Schools. Our experience includes:

  • Providing legal advice to governing boards, superintendents, college or university presidents, C-suite executives, and other leaders in the education industry.
  • Coordinating counsel on every element of a school system or university's legal needs, from administration and operations, to finance and information systems, to student services and litigation.
  • Advising on high-profile, complex situations, including investigating, managing, and preventing crises.
  • Auditing clients' legal needs to help streamline delivery of service, thereby increasing efficiencies and reducing costs.

Special Education & Disability

We have some of the most experienced attorneys in special education in the nation. Our work includes:

  • Conducting statewide training on special education and disability compliance.
  • Advising on early learning initiatives for disabled and non-disabled students.
  • Developing procedures and innovative programming.
  • Navigating compliance needs under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended (ADAAA), Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and other federal and state laws relating to discrimination and accommodations in education.
  • Representing schools in contentious Individualized Education Program (IEP) and Section 504 meetings.
  • Defending K-12 and higher education clients in investigations involving the Office for Civil Rights.

Student Issues

We work with education clients on a wide array of legal issues involving their students, including:

  • Navigating Title IX compliance, investigations, and defense.
  • Guiding clients through Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and other privacy regulations impacting students.
  • Advising on First Amendment and other constitutional issues, including free speech rights and religious expression.
  • Counseling on federal and state accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and other education laws.
  • Representing clients in hearings and appeals for student discipline related to areas such as bullying, cyberbullying, behavior problems, and social media issues.
  • Drafting policies for social media that protect staff and students.
  • Providing guidance related to special education and disability, including early learning initiatives, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Individualized Education Programs (IEP) disputes and due process hearings, and other student litigation.
  • Addressing parental rights and advocacy.


We frequently partner with education clients to provide trainings on best practices. Clients have praised our practical guidance, balanced approach, and ability to captivate diverse audiences of administrators and staff.

Click here for a list of the trainings we offer, including on topics such as:

  • Board governance and new board member training
  • Cybersecurity and data privacy
  • Employment and personnel issues
  • Finance and budgeting
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
  • Student discipline
  • Title IX

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