Higher Education

Norris McLaughlin understands the value of higher education.

With more than 45 years of experience, our higher education attorneys have represented colleges and universities in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York, addressing a broad range of legal needs, including litigation, labor and employment, campus health care and construction, cannabis, environmental, real estate, bankruptcy proceedings and others.  

Who We Are

Norris McLaughlin offers advice and counsel to meet the transactional needs of clients. We have varied and extensive experience in representing public and private colleges and universities – as well as the particular areas of concern education can involve. Our higher education attorneys have experience practicing in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.  

Who We Help

Norris McLaughlin has been involved in the largest merger in U.S. history of higher educational institutions.  We assisted private groups in obtaining state approval for the formation of a college, and we are assisting with the Middle States Accreditation process.

We’ve represented educational institutions in litigated matters before state and federal courts and administrative agencies in areas including contractual disputes, tort claims defense, defense of employment discrimination, and civil rights matters. We have assisted universities with student disciplinary policies and proceedings, and advised on environmental issues and pay-to-play restrictions for public institutions.  

What We Do

We have experience in governance issues – from open public meetings issues, resolution preparation and advice, to interpreting statutory and administrative pronouncements and requirements.  

We counsel clients in funding and governmental audits/oversight issues.  We render advice on policies and procedures, and on risk assessments. 

We advise on compliance with FERPA, VAWA, Clery, and other federal and state regulatory requirements, and we assist educational institutions in OCR investigations, and U.S. Department of Education/State Department of Education audits.

Our transactional service representation includes drafting agreements, proposals, licenses and leases. 


Colleges and universities come to Norris McLaughlin to represent them in litigated matters in state and federal courts in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania and before administrative agencies. 

We have experience defending civil claims involving sexual assault, assault, social host and dram shop, premises liability and lack of or “inadequate” campus security, products liability, libel and slander, sports injuries, negligence, slip and fall, traffic accidents, and admiralty. 

Norris McLaughlin has defended cases alleging failure to regulate or control student misconduct, fraternities and sororities, and defended, in state and federal courts, cases alleging civil rights and constitutional violations. 

We regularly defend public institutions in connection with claims under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act and the protections it affords public colleges and universities.

We manage breach of contract and environmental claims, fraud assertion, and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing. For these clients Norris McLaughlin also handles insurance coverage issues.

We handle student life matters, including student demonstrations and protest to student press issues, we provide advice on privacy issues, under FERPA and under the common law, as well as defense of claims arising from them.

Labor and Employment

Our team has experience handling employee hiring, training, progressive discipline, workplace violence, background checks, sexual harassment, and employee termination, faculty de-tenuring and professional relationship rifts.

We advise on and negotiate employment and severance agreements. We prepare and help with the implementation of policies and employee handbooks. 

Our attorneys are experienced in defending employment discrimination claims ranging from sexual harassment, age, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy, national origin, to religious discrimination and retaliation claims under state and federal law. 

Norris McLaughlin has handles matters before the NLRB and PERG, EEOC, state agencies and in state and federal courts. We defend U.S. Department of Higher Education OCR complaints and consulted on the appropriateness of public employment forfeiture.

Health Care

Attorneys with Norris McLaughlin’s Health Care & Life Sciences Group provide a wide range of services in conjunction with our higher education attorneys, serving clients throughout the health care field.

Highly specialized regulatory areas include delivering health care services under state and federal law.

Our college and university clients offering health services, such as hospitals or student health clinics, come to us for advice about their obligations under HIPAA and other privacy compliance legislation, as well as consent and other regulatory requirements.


Norris McLaughlin provides a full-service immigration practice using trained professionals with extensive immigration law experience. Our attorneys work 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 visit.

Student Discipline

Norris McLaughlin has experience revising student codes of discipline and conducting training.


Norris McLaughlin has represented university police forces, and we’ve provided training for these clients. Other areas in which we counsel, advise, and represent clients include the prosecution of disorderly persons charges, traffic, DWI, probable cause hearings, 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.

We defend 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 advises 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. We work 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. Our attorneys have experience in preparing and prosecuting patent trademark and copyright applications. We offer litigation, arbitration, and dispute resolution services when needed.


Norris McLaughlin’s attorneys have a deep well of experience and understanding in construction contracts and litigation.  

Norris McLaughlin Higher Education Group attorneys represent colleges and universities during their construction projects – from pre-planning to completion. We address construction-related disputes all along the way. Our higher education clients have engaged 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. Since building projects impact more than the site on which they sit, we assist with logistical construction needs, too, including roads, utilities, and communications.

We provide contract negotiations, risk allocation, bonding and insurance, competitive and public bidding requirements, construction management, design, development, and other relevant construction needs services coverage. 

 Our team members may access our other attorney groups, offering the broadest possible legal coverage, including construction financing issues and challenges.

Real Estate & Land Use

Whether it’s land conveyances and leasing or government rules and permits, Norris McLaughlin attorneys are experienced in the unique real estate transactions and land use matters colleges and universities face. Our talented attorneys handle matters ranging from federal and state regulatory compliance to real estate related litigation, real property tax appeals and real estate financing as well as public housing projects.


Federal, state, and local environmental and safety legislation and regulation cast a complex web.

Norris McLaughlin provides a broad 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 can tap the firm’s robust Group attorneys on matters concerning administrative and judicial proceedings before state and federal courts and agencies. 

We address 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 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) and the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (“SARA”).

We design and implement environmental audits using federal and state enforcement leniency programs.


Norris McLaughlin helps higher education clients navigate complex and evolving state and federal laws and regulations governing the medical and recreational use of cannabis. 

We assess the overall risks and benefits related to an institution’s participation in the cannabis sector.


Norris McLaughlin’s tax attorneys provide services in four main areas:  business tax, employee benefits, trusts and estates and tax controversy. Because many colleges and universities are tax-exempt entities, they seek the advice of Norris McLaughlin’s attorneys about forming tax-exempt entities, obtaining and retaining tax-exempt status, obtaining tax-exempt financing, defending compensation planning and charitable giving. We offer advice on federal and state income, gift and estate tax issues relevant to charitable giving. We aid in the establishment and operation of current and deferred charitable giving programs, and we assist with the preparation of charitable trust agreements.  Our experience includes advising higher educational institutions in deferred compensation, pension and retirement plans.


Norris McLaughlin has experienced bankruptcy attorneys based in all of its office locations. Our attorneys have substantial experience representing creditors, debtors and other parties in bankruptcy cases throughout the country. We offer counsel to colleges and universities regarding expectations and options that may result from a student’s bankruptcy proceeding, or the bankruptcy proceeding of a student’s family member. 

We provide services including litigation representation regarding the dischargeability – or wiping out – of student loans based on a bankruptcy decision. We advise regarding transcript withholding from students whose tuition obligation has been discharged in a bankruptcy proceeding and filing claims in bankruptcy cases.  We represent educational institutions in “clawback” litigation, brought by trustees of parents who paid tuition for their children and subsequently filed for bankruptcy. We represent higher education institutions in discrimination claims resulting from bankruptcy filings.

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