When colleges and universities, proprietary schools, K-12 and charter schools, and school boards need guidance, they turn to McGuireWoods, whose lawyers and consultants have been out front solving education industry problems for decades.

Our nationwide multidisciplinary team — which includes former secretaries of education, university in-house counsel, a former U.S. Department of Education official, a former member of the NCAA’s Division I Committee on Infractions, and professors and teachers — earns high marks for handling complicated legislative, regulatory and litigation challenges clients face in the evolving education environment.

With nearly 100 lawyers and consultants in 19 offices, McGuireWoods’ education team advises on thorny issues, from defending clients in complex litigation and preventing and confronting challenges through legal compliance audits, to protecting and defending intellectual property and investigating allegations of NCAA rule violations. The team:

  • Won summary judgment on behalf of a leading research university in a trademark infringement and cybersquatting case in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The court ruled that the defendant’s domain, which was also used to sell infringing products related to third-party schools and sports teams, should be transferred to the university to end the infringement. Because the court ordered the transfer of the defendant’s domain, the decision is likely to benefit universities and sports teams nationwide.
  • Prevailed on a motion for summary judgment on behalf of a public flagship institution in a high-profile First Amendment lawsuit that drew national media attention.
  • Represented a public flagship institution in a multiyear investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) under Title IX regarding sexual assault and harassment allegations, and successfully persuaded OCR to withdraw its initial findings against the institution.
  • Represented a proprietary institution before the U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid’s Borrower Defense Unit, regarding hundreds of borrower defenses to repayment claims under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, resulting in no adverse action against the institution.
  • Represented a private four-year research institution in novel Title IX litigation, prevailing on a motion for summary judgment.
  • Represented a major four-year university in a third-party audit regarding alleged mismanagement of finances and fraud, resulting in no adverse findings against the school.
  • Represented a university in response to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement summons.

The Team

The education team includes McGuireWoods LLP attorneys as well as professionals from McGuireWoods Consulting — the law firm’s public affairs affiliate — who are schooled in the workings of local, state and federal government. Team members include:

  • Three former secretaries of education
  • A former U.S. Department of Education deputy general counsel for postsecondary education
  • A former chairman of the Virginia State Council on Higher Education
  • A member of the Maryland Governor and Lieutenant Governor’s Higher Education Transition Group
  • A former member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I Committee on Infractions
  • Former in-house counsel and Title IX coordinators at public and private universities
  • Members and chairs of public and private colleges’ boards of trustees
  • Rectors and chairs of boards of trustees of major colleges and universities
  • A former chair of a university-sponsored center of innovation
  • A former adjunct professor for a state university’s education graduate program
  • A former vice chair of the American Bar Association’s Section on Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice Education Committee
  • Former K-12 educators
  • Members of the National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA)
  • A board member of the Career Education Colleges and Universities (CECU)

Recognized as thought leaders, our lawyers are prolific writers on education law and host a webinar series discussing hot topics in both higher education as well as elementary and secondary education. They also are quoted in the media as knowledgeable sources on timely issues and are sought-after speakers at industry events across the country.

Representative Clients

  • Public and private colleges and universities
  • Proprietary schools
  • Public and private K-12 schools
  • Charter schools
  • School boards
  • School presidents, faculty and staff
  • Private-school leaders
  • Coaches
  • Foundations and endowments

Honors and Media Coverage

  • McGuireWoods has been recognized as a leading law firm in education in The Legal 500 United States, the respected independent guide to the country’s top firms and lawyers. Partners Shelby Guilbert, Michele McKinnon, Mary Nash Rusher and Farnaz Thompson were selected as leaders in education.
  • Education industry team leader Farnaz Thompson was honored as a top education author by JD Supra in its Readers’ Choice Awards and recognized as a Virginia Law Foundation fellow for the class of 2023. She formerly served as the deputy general counsel for the U.S. Department of Education, where she advised the Office for Postsecondary Education, Federal Student Aid and the Office for Civil Rights, and as in-house counsel at the University of Virginia.
  • Education industry team member Sarah Wake has been quoted by The New York Times, ESPN, Law360, The Athletic and Bloomberg’s Daily Tax Report. She has written and presented for LEAD1, which represents athletics directors of the 131 member universities of the Football Bowl Subdivision on issues related to student athletes. She also served on the NCAA’s Division I Committee on Infractions.
  • Education industry team member Heidi Siegmund was named one of Virginia Lawyers Weekly’s “Up & Coming Lawyers,” an honor reserved for attorneys in their first 10 years of practice whose significant accomplishments establish them as future leaders.

McGuireWoods’ education team is in a class of its own. It includes three prior secretaries of education, a former U.S. Department of Education official, a former member of the NCAA’s Division I Committee on Infractions, and former in-house counsel, Title IX coordinators and professors, among others.