Higher Education

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Higher education institutions, including public and private colleges, universities, and research entities, are a fundamental part of society. Not only do they equip the next generation for the future, but they also stand at the forefront of developing groundbreaking research and technology innovations. However, these institutions operate in a highly-regulated environment, at times under deep scrutiny, where they contend with competing interests.


Dickinson Wright has decades of experience counseling universities and other higher education institutions. Whether assisting with a financial transaction, overseeing a major construction project, protecting intellectual property, or providing legal advice and representation during an investigation, our higher education attorneys understand the complexity of the issues facing colleges and universities. We currently serve over 45 higher education institutions across the U.S. and globally.


Our Team


Our higher education lawyers are esteemed by both clients and peers for their industry experience and commitment to excellent representation as well as their significant appointments to bar associations and the judiciary. Additionally, they are regularly cited for their work by Chambers®, Super Lawyers®, and Best Lawyers®.


Our Services



Administrative & Regulatory: We counsel higher education institutions to ensure they are compliant with the regulatory requirements that govern their daily operations. Our administrative and regulatory work covers a full spectrum of matters, including:

  • Student records and privacy matters relating to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

  • First Amendment challenges

  • Title IX compliance, including student and staff conduct 

  • Tax-exempt status compliance

  • Public policy, ethics, and lobbying

  • Conflicts of interest policies

  • Transparency compliance, including public access to meeting and records

  • College loan, grant, and scholarship programs

  • Fundraising, endowments, and planned giving

  • Investments

  • Intercollegiate sports and athletic departments

Health Care Research & Academic Institutions: Our team advises and assists higher education institutions through every stage of the research cycle, including the creation of policies, negotiation of clinical trial agreements, and development of research affiliation agreements with academic partners and collaborating research sites.


Intellectual Property: Our higher education team works with universities and research institutions to help them protect important technologies in areas ranging from biotechnology to the engineering arts.  We also assist with patent and trademark prosecution and commercialization as well as trade secret and copyright law issues.


Technology Transfer: Understanding the importance of identifying and protecting innovations at the earliest stage possible, we counsel clients regarding the risks and complicated transactions that come with the development, licensing, acquiring, and selling of technology, giving them a competitive advantage and helping them reach their full commercial potential.


Land Use & Economic Development: We help colleges and universities with all of their land use and development needs, including:


  • Advising on land acquisitions, financing, renovation, and leasing

  • Obtaining zoning, rezoning, site plan, special land use, and sign approvals

  • Ensuring compliance with environmental, wetlands, and water rights regulations

  • Negotiating access, utility, conservation, and reciprocal easements 

Representative Matters

Administrative and Regulatory

─ Assisted a public research university in Metro Detroit with compliance issues related to Chinese regulations and PRC laws applicable to non-governmental organizations.

─ Represented a top-ranked public research university in Michigan in lawsuits involving employment discrimination, denial of tenure, as well as discrimination and due process claims brought by students.

─ Represented a medical school involved in an internal accounting dispute in international arbitration, culminating in a judgment in favor of our client as confirmed by the federal courts. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit confirmed award of all of our attorneys’ fees incurred in the process, leaving our client with a win, and the other side to pay our fees.


─ Assisted a public research university in Metro Detroit in navigating U.S. immigration laws affecting inbound students in the F-1 and J-1 categories, as well as providing services related to EMU’s J-1 sponsorship of students.

─ Assisting a public university in Texas on an ongoing basis with compliance issues regarding their International Student office as well as immigration strategies and filings for foreign employees of the university.

Intellectual Property & Technology Transfer

─ Represented a private university in Michigan in connection with protecting the name of a robotics competition initiative in numerous countries and assisting with enforcement against a rogue licensee for that competition in China. The inclusive strategy of protecting the client’s rights has included recently seeking copyright protection for materials related to that completion in China.

─ Currently represent three universities in China on an ongoing basis. Areas of focus include U.S. investments and technology advice, intellectual property, and other areas as they relate to the universities’ cooperative efforts with U.S. research institutions, universities, and public-private partnerships.

─ Significant experience representing large universities surrounding technology transfer and commercialization, ranging from license transactions to policy formation for public and private institutions, federal labs initiatives, innovation and entrepreneurship programs, research parks, innovation centers, and private foundations.

─ Advised on structural aspects relating to intellectual property strategy, fund formation, institutional governance, and special projects such as strategic corporate initiatives.


─ Represent a public land-grant research university in Nevada in a multi-million dollar claim brought by a construction company contractor in relation to a student housing project which was stopped midway through construction.

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