Higher Education Leader Sarah Wake Joins McGuireWoods as Chicago Employment Partner

Associate GC at Northwestern Held Prominent Posts at UChicago, Notre Dame and NCAA Committee on Infractions

November 29, 2021

Sarah K. Wake has returned to McGuireWoods’ Labor & Employment Department as a partner in Chicago, bringing more than eight years of experience as an administrative leader and legal adviser at prestigious higher education institutions.

Wake’s arrival bolsters McGuireWoods’ education team, which represents clients in litigation and provides legal and policy guidance to clients including colleges and universities, K-12 schools, charter schools, school boards and academic medical centers. Wake also will advise clients in employment-related matters. She was a labor and employment associate at McGuireWoods from 2007 to 2013.

Wake rejoins the firm from Northwestern University, where she served as associate general counsel and interim associate vice president for equity. In those roles, she advised senior leadership and other university stakeholders on a variety of matters including Title IX compliance; discrimination, harassment and access; admissions; and athletics — including name, image and likeness compliance and policy issues. While at Northwestern, Wake served on the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I Committee on Infractions, which is charged with deciding cases involving alleged rules violations by NCAA member institutions and their employees.

Before joining Northwestern, Wake oversaw Title IX and equal opportunity programs at the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame, and served as the vice president for research’s chief of staff at Notre Dame.

“Sarah knows firsthand the unique legal and compliance challenges that colleges and universities manage and that insight will be a valuable asset for our higher education clients,” said Harrison Marshall, leader of McGuireWoods’ education team. 

“Sarah is an accomplished education and employment lawyer and respected leader and we are proud to have her back at McGuireWoods, where she will be an important contributor to our education and employment teams in the Midwest and nationwide,” added Dion Hayes, the firm’s deputy managing partner for litigation.

Wake’s return to McGuireWoods follows the arrival earlier this year of partner Farnaz Thompson, who served as deputy general counsel in the U.S. Department of Education and as in-house counsel at the University of Virginia before joining the firm’s Labor & Employment Department in Washington, D.C.

“The breadth of Sarah’s experience providing legal and strategic guidance to employers and higher education institutions is tremendous. She is an outstanding addition to our practice,” said Sabrina Beldner, chair of the firm’s Labor & Employment Department.

Christina Egan, managing partner of the firm’s Chicago office, added: “We are delighted to welcome Sarah home to McGuireWoods as she begins this new chapter of her career.”

McGuireWoods’ labor and employment lawyers advise local, national and multinational employers — including small businesses, government entities and Fortune 500 companies — on compliance with state, federal and international law; internal investigations; federal contracting; and executive compensation. The firm earned national Tier 1 rankings for labor and employment litigation and employment law in the 2022 edition of U.S. News-Best Lawyers’ “Best Law Firms.”

“I am glad to return to McGuireWoods and look forward to collaborating with our talented lawyers to provide excellent service to our clients, including colleges and universities facing unprecedented challenges,” Wake said.