Mitchell Poole authored an article published by Law360 that examines the unique business and legal issues that distinguish student housing from traditional multifamily housing facilities, and discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified those issues and affected the economics of off-campus student housing.
Cozen O’Connor is at the forefront of providing legal services for all manner of educational institutions in a rapidly evolving world. Our services include labor and employment, fair and impartial investigations and adjudications, risk management, safety and security, real estate, public and project finance, energy, health, intellectual property, commercial litigation, and government affairs. In addition, our attorneys work to ensure that schools and universities are equipped to be compliant with fast-changing data privacy laws while, at the same time, helping implement cutting-edge safety and security protocols.
In higher education, our clients include large public and private universities, small independent colleges and universities, and community colleges. For the pre-K and K-12 area, Cozen O’Connor represents early childhood education providers, and a broad spectrum of public, private, and charter schools.
As an illustration of the breadth of our Education Group’s practice, our attorneys have unmatched experience with Title IX and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) compliance, employment counseling and litigation, bond issues, and collective bargaining. We also have exceptional experience conducting internal investigations on issues like sexual misconduct, pay equity, and discrimination. As state and federal governments enact stricter data privacy laws, Cozen O’Connor attorneys guide schools and universities on what they must do in order to be in compliance when it comes to protecting student data.
As part of the firm’s commitment to total engagement with the education sector, Cozen O’Connor attorneys not only serve as legal counsel, but also as university and college trustees, adjunct faculty, educational consultants, and alumni leaders. We also have nationally recognized attorneys and security professionals who focus in safety, security, and emergency preparedness.
Commercial Litigation. We are, first and foremost, a trial firm. Our litigators have more collective trial experience than any other litigation group in the country, and they appear in courts in various jurisdictions on a daily basis. We have the capability to represent education clients in any type of commercial litigation — and we’ve handled everything from construction contract disputes to professional liability actions to personal injury claims.
Environmental. Our environmental attorneys have deep collective governmental experience that we leverage in every engagement, including several former senior enforcement attorneys with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Having worked on both sides of the table, Cozen O’Connor attorneys understand agency processes, constraints, and priorities. We have represented education clients in matters concerning all major federal and state environmental laws: Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, CERCLA and SARA, Endangered Species Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Toxic Substances Control Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act, among others.
Government Relations. A distinguishing feature of the firm is Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies, its premier government relations and lobbying firm. The team is committed to a bipartisan approach to problem-solving and opportunity creation, and includes federal lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and state and city lobbyists in Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Our professionals offer a full complement of government affairs services, including legislative and executive branch advocacy, regulatory and policy analysis and monitoring, political and regulatory risk management, public affairs visibility support and crisis management, and assistance with government procurement. We represent the interests of our public and private sector clients in a wide variety of industries – including education, before all levels of government.
Health. Our Health Care Practice has experience representing educational institutions that are connected to hospitals and major medical centers. We have broad regulatory, litigation, and transactional experience. Among the issues we regularly handle are payer disputes, False Claims Act litigation, HIPAA/HITECH issues, Medicaid/Medicare/third-party reimbursement, provider-payer relations, provider-based issues, and mergers, acquisitions and restructurings.
Immigration Policy & Strategy. Our full-service immigration practice assists education institutions and students seeking temporary visa options and permanent residence in the United States. We also assist clients in developing comprehensive strategies to facilitate global employee mobility and address all aspects of immigration compliance, including Form I-9 and E-Verify.
Institutional Response Group. Our institutional response attorneys have decades of experience conducting high-profile investigations into sexual and gender-based harassment and violence, child abuse, and other forms of misconduct. Cozen O’Connor attorneys also conduct proactive Title IX, child protection, and Greek Life audits, with a focus on consistency in policies, procedural fairness, and coordination of multi-disciplinary teams and systems to effectively implement policy. In addition, Cozen O’Connor assists institutions in implementing trauma-informed, fair and impartial prevention, and resolution processes.
Intellectual Property. By definition, educational institutions are incubators for creativity, innovation, and discovery. That’s why Cozen O’Connor works closely with academic clients to ensure that their intellectual property rights are properly documented and protected. We have experience handling the full range of IP issues, including patent prosecution and defense, trade secret protection, trademark and copyright management, branding rights, licensing, labeling, and technology transfers.
Internal Investigations & Risk Management. With extensive capabilities on both the prosecutorial and defense sides, our attorneys offer a 360-degree perspective. Drawing on our extensive government experience, we help clients conduct internal investigations, navigate government investigations, and defend their reputation and interests. Moreover, insights gained through prior government services and strong professional relationships with current government officials enhance our ability to narrow the scope of investigations and make arguments that are persuasive to regulators. Our practitioners have years of experience in a wide range of industries, including education. Among other matters, we have experience handling campus investigations concerning allegations of serious non-criminal and criminal misconduct. We work preventively with clients to conduct internal-control audits and implement compliance solutions designed to prevent misconduct and manage risk. Our attorneys have a track record of helping clients achieve restorative and remedial rather than simply punitive outcomes.
Labor & Employment. Cozen O’Connor’s labor and employment attorneys have decades of experience working on the array of issues most relevant to education clients, including collective bargaining, pay disparity, unionization, NLRB and state labor board cases, employment discrimination and harassment claims, tenure challenges, immigration, employment counseling and compliance, and employee benefits.
Public & Project Finance. Since 2005, our firms’ Public & Project Finance Practice has handled in excess of $11 billion in bond financings for educational institutions, including public school districts, charter schools, independent schools, and colleges and universities. We have served as bond counsel, underwriter’s counsel, borrower’s counsel, and placement agent counsel in such financings.
Real Estate. Developing and maintaining attractive, modern, state-of-the-art facilities is a priority for all education institutions. Cozen O’Connor’s nationally renowned Real Estate Practice has direct experience working with K-12 and higher education clients on acquisitions, leasing, construction, renovation, and public-private partnerships in the development of classrooms, laboratories, administrative buildings, athletic facilities, student housing/dormitories, apartments, and mixed-use retail and residential properties. We have experience representing clients in their most complex or controversial projects, and in advising in areas ranging from finance to land use.
Safety and Security. Margolis Healy and Associates, an affiliate of Cozen O’Connor, is a professional services organization that provides safety, security, emergency preparedness, and regulatory compliance for education institutions. MHA has significant experience conducting safety and security program assessments, security system and technology studies, communication center assessments and policy development and review, Clery Act and Title IX regulatory compliance reviews, independent investigations, and safety and security strategic planning processes, among a range of other related services. MHA also assists public and private K-12 schools evaluate physical security practices, including the use of security systems and technology, student and visitor access, pick up and drop off safety, emergency plans and communications, travel safety, and threat assessment teams. MHA also provides immediate action response training for faculty, staff, and students and can develop and deliver a wide range of drills and exercises intended to test and evaluate existing emergency preparedness plans, policies, and procedures.
Utility & Energy. Cozen O’Connor’s team of utility & energy attorneys handle the full gamut of regulatory, transactional, and litigation matters related to electricity, natural gas, steam, and water/wastewater. For example, we have guided higher education institutions in the development of combined heat and power projects, represented their interests in utility rate proceedings, and negotiated favorable agreements for the purchase of electric generation and natural gas supply. These projects helped clients achieve their goals of saving money and reducing their carbon footprint.