WilmerHale helps educational institutions solve their most complex, high-stakes problems.

Colleges and universities have never been as prominent, or as vulnerable, as they are today. As their influence spreads, so does the scrutiny they receive. Educational institutions have unique missions, unique management and governance systems, and a unique set of responsibilities. Lawyers helping colleges and universities solve their thorniest problems must understand what they stand for and how they work. WilmerHale does.

We guide colleges and universities through government investigations, congressional inquiries, and public scrutiny. We represent our education clients in high-profile litigation, help them defend their intellectual property, and handle their major transactions. And we assist schools confronting difficult and contentious policy issues.

WilmerHale knows the unique issues and mounting pressures facing educational institutions. We have worked with education clients in a wide range of areas, including: accreditation, affirmative action, antitrust, art and antiquities, campus security, cybersecurity, employee misconduct, endowment management, federal grants and contracts. We also assist in the areas of: financial aid, free speech, export controls, gender-based and sexual misconduct and healthcare, as well as IP litigation, joint ventures, licensing, mergers and acquisitions, patent commercialization, patent prosecution, privacy, public-private partnerships, religious liberty, research guidelines, student-athlete issues, technology transfer and testing.


Sort By
Gorelick, Jamie

Jamie Gorelick

Chair, Regulatory and Government Affairs Department

Co-Chair, Strategic Response Group

+1 202 663 6500 (t)



Stephen W. Preston

Chair, Defense, National Security and Government Contracts Practice

+1 202 663 6900 (t)


Berman, Bruce M.

Bruce M. Berman

General Counsel

+1 202 663 6173 (t)


Issue Focus: Sexual Violence

WilmerHale is assisting some of the nation's top universities in their response to campus sexual violence, including schools identified by the Department of Education earlier this year. Our work covers the full breadth of this challenging issue. We counsel clients on compliance with Title IX, the Clery Act, and the Campus SaVE Act, as well as guidance from the Department of Education and the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. We draft gender-based and sexual misconduct policies and procedures for resolving complaints and sanctioning responsible parties. We counsel clients on crisis response and help formulate internal and external communication strategies. We conduct internal reviews of university responses to specific incidents, and we recommend policy and practice changes when appropriate. We also represent clients facing Department of Education investigations, congressional oversight, law enforcement subpoenas, and lawsuits by alleged victims and respondents.


Strategic Response, Investigations and Litigation

Legal challenges confronting colleges and universities can quickly escalate into multidisciplinary matters with significant legal, financial and reputational consequences. We work with educational institutions to develop and execute strategies to defend or advance a position—whether responding to fast-moving events or working over the longer term to craft and implement legislative or regulatory solutions to complex problems.

We have represented numerous education clients in internal, regulatory and congressional investigations. These include investigations of universities' use of research funds, investigations of guaranteed student loan providers, and investigations of non-profit and for-profit college recruiting and student aid practices.

We have also handled a wide range of offensive and defensive litigation for colleges and universities. In doing so we are mindful that educational institutions have numerous internal and external constituencies—including students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and parents—that have differing interests and perspectives. We also take into account that litigation involving educational institutions attracts out-sized public attention and often concerns difficult and divisive public policy issues.

Representative matters:

  • We conducted internal reviews for universities facing high-profile matters with legal and reputational risks.
  • We represented Duke University in litigation by former lacrosse players.
  • We have prevailed in sensitive litigation over claims to art and antiquities in university and museum collections, including a dispute over Persian antiquities.
  • We represented a coalition of national universities accused by the Department of Justice of violating antitrust laws in providing scholarships.
  • We represented the University of Michigan before the United States Supreme Court in Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger, which addressed the ability of higher education institutions to consider racial and cultural background in admissions.

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property can be among an academic institution's most vital assets. To manage this important commodity, colleges and universities need an experienced and trusted partner. WilmerHale has one of the largest and most experienced intellectual property departments in the country. Our intellectual property lawyers assist schools with strategic planning, identify inventions for which patents should be sought and advise on what claims to make and how best to make them. WilmerHale's Intellectual Property Litigation Practice has been recognized by The American Lawyer as the finest in the country.

Representative matters:

  • We have prosecuted patents for universities, including Boston University, Brown University, Columbia University, Harvard University, Michigan State University, Rutgers University, University of Chicago, and University of Pittsburgh, and for medical facilities such as the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
  • We advised Columbia University on the development of a strategic plan for the commercialization of a collection of patents. We analyzed and classified the technologies for marketing purposes, researched potential markets, identified possible licensees and delivered a comprehensive strategy far beyond the capability of most university technology transfer offices.
  • We help manage university patent portfolios, provide patentability assessments and identify advantageous licensing opportunities.
  • On behalf of a major university and its licensee, we prevailed in a patent interference proceeding concerning an active agent in a drug for the treatment of septic shock. The decision was upheld in an appeal before the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Regulatory and Legislative

We are well-versed in the many regulatory obligations imposed on higher education institutions and for-profit education companies, and regularly provide advice on the areas of most pressing and consistent concern. We also represent numerous universities and educational companies before Congress, assuring that their interests are taken into account in legislation.

Representative matters:

  • We advise universities and commercial organizations on compliance with federal education laws.
  • We provide guidance to clients on the use of federal grant, cooperative agreement or contract funds.
  • We advise clients on the regulatory constraints surrounding research and product development in biotech, medical and other spheres, and on the increasingly regulated domain of data privacy.
  • University clients looking to export their technology turn to WilmerHale for advice on export controls pertaining to the transfer of technical data to overseas parties and the employment of foreign nationals—such as graduate students—in research conducted in the United States.
  • We helped ensure that federal stimulus funds would be directed to school systems that need to acquire certain instructional materials.

Transactional (Corporate and Licensing)

Universities and other education clients rely on us for a host of transactional work, including mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, research collaboratives, technology transfers, and licensing. We understand the special challenges education clients face and the rules to which they may be subject when contemplating and executing transactions.

Representative matters:

  • We provide legal advice to university investment offices concerning their investments in various vehicles.
  • We represent the New York Genome Center, a consortium of New York-based academic and medical institutions, in matters including entity formation, governance, and other corporate, tax, licensing, employment and regulatory matters.
  • We represented the Mexican National Institute for Astronomy, Optics and Electronics in a cross-border joint venture with the University of Massachusetts to construct a state-of-the-art large millimeter radio telescope observatory in Puebla, Mexico.
  • We advised on the formation and structuring of The SNP Consortium, a public-private consortium in which The Wellcome Trust, leading global pharmaceutical and IT companies, and several major research universities in the United States and Britain collaborated to develop a publicly released map of the human genome based on the discovery and classification of single-nucleotide polymorphisms.
  • We have represented major for-profit and non-profit organizations in acquiring education oriented companies, such as Educational Testing Service's acquisitions of Assessment Training Institute and Prometric.
  • We represented some of the largest research universities in the country in customizing technology transfer agreements with private enterprises to their needs and particular technology requirements.

Publications & News


June 16, 2017

OCR Guidance Could Alter Scope of Pending and Future Civil Rights Investigations

A memorandum obtained by ProPublica, if authentic, sets forth substantially revised guidance for civil rights investigations conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The memorandum, addressed to Regional Directors from Candice Jackson, OCR Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, explains that, going forward, “there is no longer a 'one size fits all' approach to investigation of any category of complaints.”

December 7, 2015

4 Ways to Ease Strife on Campuses

In this op-ed published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Mark Rotenberg, a senior member of WilmerHale’s Education Practice, offers clients unique insight and experience gleaned from serving more than two decades as the chief legal officer at preeminent private and public research universities.

November 6, 2015

OCR Finds That Title IX Requires Equal Locker Room Access for Transgender Students

The US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), recently confirmed that transgender students are protected from sex-based discrimination under Title IX and found that a public school district violated Title IX by denying a transgender student equal locker room access.

August 12, 2015

Tragic Death Focuses Attention on Campus Police

While the nation’s attention has been focused on incidents involving the use of lethal force by local police—and ensuing racial and community unrest, protest, and violence—recent incidents involving campus police highlight the need for colleges and universities to assess their own security policies and practices.

June 10, 2015

Higher Education General Counsel Mark Rotenberg to Join WilmerHale

Mark B. Rotenberg, vice president and general counsel of Johns Hopkins University, will join WilmerHale as special counsel in the law firm’s Washington DC office.

June 1, 2015

WilmerHale Partners Recognized as Outstanding Women Lawyers by The National Law Journal

WilmerHale congratulates Partners Susan Murley, Jamie Gorelick and Sharon Cohen Levin for being named to The National Law Journal’s (NLJ) inaugural list of Outstanding Women Lawyers.

April 22, 2015

Jamie Gorelick Honored with Award and Delivers Keynote at Oklahoma City Bombing Anniversary Luncheon

WilmerHale Partner and former US Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, who assembled and oversaw the prosecution team in the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, delivered the keynote speech and was honored at the 2015 Reflections of Hope Award Luncheon on April 20 in Oklahoma City.

April 3, 2015

Justice Department Settlement With edX Suggests Heightened Scrutiny of Online Course Accessibility and Potential Strategies for Schools

On April 2, the Department of Justice entered into a settlement agreement with edX, a major online college course provider, over alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) related to the accessibility of online courses.

October 15, 2014

Restrictions Governing International Trade in Genetic Resources Enter Into Force

On October 12, 2014, the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits from their Utilization entered into international force. The Protocol establishes a new legal framework to govern access to and utilization of genetic resources, including genetic material and any naturally occurring derivative compound.

July 11, 2012

Seth Waxman Honored as Legal Visionary by The National Law Journal