Farnaz F. Thompson Partner

Farnaz is a skilled litigator with extensive experience in representing employers and institutions of higher education, including academic medical centers, in breach of contract, constitutional, discrimination, and tort litigation. She has conducted investigations, advised clients on employment and education laws, and represented them before federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Education.

Farnaz successfully has defended employers, state agencies, government officials, and institutions of higher education in over 30 civil actions as first chair before federal and state courts as well as trial and appellate courts.  Farnaz also has advised clients on investigations under civil rights laws such as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (discrimination based on race, color, or national origin), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin), and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (discrimination based on sex).  Her deep knowledge of education laws and regulations includes the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended; accreditation; borrower defense to repayment; gainful employment; financial responsibility standards; FERPA and other privacy laws; the Clery Act; and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Farnaz is experienced with student and employee disciplinary issues, including under Title IX, and has represented institutions in such matters in several of her previous roles.  Representing institutions in Title IX cases requires a nuanced approach, as the institution must balance legal compliance with compassion and care, supporting victims while providing a fair process for both parties, including the accused.  Farnaz strikes this balance and is a trusted resource for her clients.

Prior to joining McGuireWoods, Farnaz served as the Deputy General Counsel for Postsecondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education and also as in-house counsel at the University of Virginia.  She advised the U.S. Department of Education on litigation strategy and worked closely with the U.S. Department of Justice in cases arising under federal antidiscrimination laws and the Administrative Procedure Act.  Government officials also relied on her close counsel in preparation for congressional investigations and hearings.  At the University of Virginia, she advised University officials on federal education and employment laws and represented the University and its academic medical center in litigation.  She also drafted the University’s antidiscrimination and conduct policies, including free speech policies.

She began her legal career as a law clerk to the Honorable Eric G. Bruggink, Senior Judge, U.S. Court of Federal Claims, and later as a law clerk to the Honorable Leroy Rountree Hassell, Sr., the former Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Virginia.


Obtained full dismissal of all employment discrimination claims under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 against a public research institution and its academic medical center. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the decision.

Obtained full voluntary dismissal of tortious interference with contract and fraud claims against a dean of a community college in a case concerning the accreditation of an academic program.

Obtained a federal, nationwide prefiling injunction against a disbarred attorney for government officials.

Argued an appeal to defend a state agency’s ruling before the Supreme Court of Virginia, which the Supreme Court affirmed in part.

Co-authored the Title IX Final Rule, 85 Fed. Reg. 30,026 (May 19, 2020), the first set of regulations defining and prohibiting sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination.

Co-authored the Borrower Defense to Repayment and Institutional Accountability Final Rule, 85 Fed. Reg. 49,788 (Sept. 23, 2019), setting forth the standard for federal student loan forgiveness as a result of a substantial misrepresentation and financial responsibility standards for institutions of higher education that receive federal student aid.

Lead attorney in negotiated rulemaking under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, including for Accreditation and State Authorization Final Rule, 84 Fed. Reg. 58,834 (Nov. 1, 2019), defining the roles and responsibilities of accrediting agencies, states, and the federal department of education in oversight of institutions of higher education participating in federal student aid programs.

Represented a public university before the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), regarding its compensation practices and policies and other employment law issues. OFCCP’s compliance evaluation ended amicably through a conciliation agreement.

Represented a public university before the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights in a five-year compliance review under Title IX that ended amicably through a resolution agreement.

  • Regent University School of Law, JD, cum laude, Senior Editor, Law Review, 2007
  • University of California Berkeley, BA, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, 2004

Member, National Association of College and University Attorneys

Member, Virginia Law Foundation, Committee on Continuing Legal Education and Chair of Subcommittee on National Legal Programming

Member, Virginia State Bar Executive Committee, 2019-2020

Member, Regent University School of Law Advisory Board, 2016-2018

Member, Editorial Board, NACUANOTES, National Association of College and University Attorneys, 2016-2018

Adjunct Professor, Regent University School of Law, 2012-2015

Chair, Virginia State Bar Bench-Bar Dinner, 2012-2013

  • Farsi
  • District of Columbia
  • Virginia
  • California
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia
  • U.S. Court of Federal Claims

Recipient, Significant Service Award, Virginia State Bar Young Lawyers Conference, 2013

  • Organizer and Moderator, "Title IX Case Law and Regulations Governing Sexual Harassment on College Campuses – In a State of Flux," Virginia CLE, August 17 and September 15, 2021
  • Speaker, "Borrower Defense: How to Respond to Borrower Defense Claims, Preserve all Applicable Defenses for any Hearing or Litigation, and Engage in Effective Government Relations Strategies," Career Education Colleges and Universities (CECU), Webinar, July 28, 2021
  • Speaker, Post-Alston Name, Image and Likeness Implications for Education Benefits and Title IX, July 15, 2021
  • Speaker, "Resolve This! Learning from Recent OCR Title IX Resolution Agreements to Improve Policies, Procedures, and Case Handling at Your Institution," National Association of College and University Attorneys, Annual Conference, San Francisco, CA, June 2016
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