Background - Practices (Details)



Crowell & Moring provides a comprehensive range of litigation, transactional, and counseling services to colleges, universities, academic medical centers, other educational institutions, and those who service them, across the United States and beyond. Public and private institutions alike rely on the substantive experience, interdisciplinary approach, and client-focused service offered by the firm's education practice team to provide practical, strategic solutions to complex legal problems. This cross-disciplinary team is devoted to understanding and addressing difficult legal issues facing universities and other institutions of higher learning with innovative, cost-effective, and sustainable solutions, in partnership with each institution, tailored to its needs.

Our experience includes the following:

Federal Grants and Government Procurement

Crowell & Moring's government contracts lawyers are both counselors and litigators across the entire public procurement spectrum, with unparalleled experience in contract formation issues and strategies, bid protests, contract interpretation and performance disputes, post-performance audits, investigations, and allegations of fraud.

Included in this experience is the unique world of federal grants, where we have counseled academic and research institutions on the intellectual property rights and other conditions imposed on the use of grant funds. Our firm has a sophisticated and deep bench of grants law practitioners, many of whom also practice in the traditional government contracts arena. We handle all aspects of grants law and compliance, including defending grantees in government investigations, audits, and suspension and debarment proceedings, as well as counseling with respect to cutting-edge legal issues such as intellectual property rights, ARRA funding issues, domestic sourcing restrictions, performance reporting, administration of subawards, program income, cost allowability and accounting, and conflicts of interest. Our practice includes assisting our grantee clients to establish or enhance their compliance programs, policies, and internal controls, and providing compliance training to management and boards of directors. For our university clients, we are a one-stop shop in all things grants and government contracts. Read more.

Academic Affairs and Governance

Litigation of complex and sophisticated legal issues is a core strength of Crowell & Moring, and the successful resolution of academic affairs issues, with system-wide impact, is a hallmark of our education practice team. We also assist universities in assessing and minimizing litigation risks in light of recent legal trends and other developments affecting academic institutions.

Our team represents academic institutions in a broad range of matters, including First Amendment issues relating to targeted picketing of faculty members' residences by animal rights activists, funding and sponsoring of academic conferences on politically controversial topics, alleged libel by student newspapers, use of social media to harass and defame, privacy issues involving student health information and other personal data under FERPA, student class actions arising out of budget-driven fee increases, and issues related to tenure and academic appointments.

By way of example, we successfully represented a public university in a constitutional challenge to its denial of official recognition and funding to a religious student group that excluded other students, in violation of the school's "open membership" policy, based on their beliefs. Likewise, we successfully defended a public university's implementation of a state law permitting certain nonresident students, including undocumented immigrants, to pay lower in-state tuition rates if they had attended high school in the state for a designated period of time. We also have represented several universities in high-profile litigation and related administrative proceedings arising out of the termination of, or other disciplinary action taken against, prominent faculty members.

We recently concluded a representation in which we successfully resisted production of a doctoral candidate's research notes and other records, as well as testimony, which were of interest to federal law enforcement officials investigating religious extremism. The university asserted ownership of the research and opposed production on the grounds of academic freedom.

Sexual Misconduct Compliance and Investigations

The increased focus of federal regulatory authorities on sexual harassment, sexual violence and other forms of sexual misconduct on campus has required educational institutions to revise their policies and procedures for handling such complaints and to be proactive in creating safe and hostile-free campus environments. Building on a deep bench of education, civil rights and regulatory lawyers, our interdisciplinary team draws on a broad range of experience within the firm to assist educational institutions in navigating the regulatory, investigative, and litigation hurdles presented in this high-stakes environment. We work closely with schools to help them develop an approach to Title IX compliance that both reflects their unique campus culture and is consistent with US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights' latest guidance. Our work in this area has included conducting investigations of alleged abuse or misconduct, resolving claims brought against the educational institution, drafting and revising Title IX policies and procedures for adjudicating complaints, and benchmarking provisions among various peer institutions for resolving sexual misconduct complaints.

Academic Medical Centers

Our lawyers counsel and represent academic medical centers regarding traditional reimbursement and commercial transaction issues in addition to matters involving scientific integrity (e.g., misconduct, disqualification), research objectivity (e.g., financial conflicts of interest), human subjects research and the Common Rule, FDA reporting obligations, the Shelby Amendment expansion of the Freedom of Information Act, HIPAA compliance, inventorship and technology transfer, and the NIH grants process. We also deal with antitrust issues in collaborative activities among research centers.

Our team has advocated vigorously to minimize the burden of new federal regulations and administrative requirements on academic medical centers, and has worked with research institutions to craft specific policies to comply with evolving privacy regulations and the Anti-Kickback Act and Stark law regulations. We conduct internal audits and investigations and also represent academic medical centers in connection with false claims and other alleged fraud investigations related to medical staff/faculty billings for professional services, and provide antitrust guidance regarding managed care center networks, protocols for clinical trial administration and reporting, and business and clinical affiliations with community hospitals and medical practices. Finally, we provide counsel to academic medical centers as they face new policy and legal challenges that have arisen because of the Affordable Care Act and healthcare reform. Read more.

Intellectual Property and Life Sciences

Crowell & Moring offers a full array of intellectual property services, ranging from procurement to licensing to enforcement of patents, trademarks, and copyrights. In fact, the firm's intellectual property litigators have tried many, many cases to jury verdicts in the last decade. The firm has been particularly successful at obtaining interim relief to stop infringement.

Counseling. Unlike many large national law firms, Crowell & Moring still believes that its top lawyers should be available to address the day-to-day counseling needs of its clients. Whether university counsel needs guidance on applying the fair use doctrine to a copyrighted work or advice on the legality of the purchase of trademarks as keywords in Google's AdWords program, the firm's intellectual property lawyers are ready to help. With one of the best copyright practices in the nation, Crowell & Moring is regularly called upon by universities to navigate the challenge of applying copyright in a digital age. We have advised universities on a wide range of current copyright problem, including the Google book case, statutory licensing fees for college radio stations, student use of university networks for music downloading, and a host of other copyright problems.

Patent Procurement. Crowell & Moring has been the go-to patent prosecution firm for many of the nation's leading research universities. Our strength in life sciences, biotechnology, and electrical engineering is based on technical experience in both academic and industry settings. The firm represents numerous research universities in obtaining patents for inventions resulting from university research, including in the life science, biotechnology, electrical engineering, and computer science fields. Our trademark prosecution practice is equally strong. It is led by a former examiner for the U.S. Trademark Office and offers a low fixed-fee application process. We also have advised universities on the licensing of their trademarks, particularly in the context of use by boosters.

Licensing. The firm's education practice team routinely assists university patent foundations in licensing and enforcing their patent portfolio. We also have helped universities to set up a patent foundation. We also regularly conduct training on intellectual property for key university administrators. And, we have negotiated and drafted complex licenses and technology transfer agreements — both into and out of the university.

Intellectual Property Recovery. Research universities invest significant resources in the development and maintenance of their IP portfolios, but most fail to fully realize the potential revenue stream of those investments. The firm's IP Recovery practice has been developed specifically to assist our university clients in protecting their IP assets and maximizing their return on investment to provide a revenue stream to support the institution's tech transfer objectives. Our IP Recovery Practice has four basic components: Proactive IP Mining; Strategic Enforcement of IP Rights, Fee Arrangements Rewarding Success, and Accomplished Trial Lawyers.

  • Proactive IP Mining. Working with the inventors and representatives from the technology transfer and legal teams, we perform a comprehensive review of their institution's IP portfolio to identify significant recovery opportunities.
  • Strategic Enforcement of IP Rights. We can maximize the value of the institution's IP assets by confronting delinquent licensees and, where appropriate, taking infringers who refuse licenses to court. For universities, a complex set of considerations may influence decisions about patent enforcement, including infringer identity, concerns for litigation finance, fear of research funding retribution and the licensing typology of the asserted patent. We understand those factors and, working with the institution, take them each into account when evaluating assets.
  • Fee Arrangements. Our recovery practice allows us to accept cases using results-oriented, value-based fee agreements and innovative third-party financing arrangements providing our university clients with the ability to bring cases they could not afford to bring with traditional IP firms.
  • Accomplished Trial Lawyers. Our clients rely on our deep and talented pool of IP litigators, including a number of the most accomplished trial attorneys in the U.S. to take their most important IP disputes to court.

Privacy and Cybersecurity

In this digital age, universities, academic medical centers, and those who serve them, necessarily collect reams of personal student and research data and are involved in the development of valuable intellectual property. As such, they are increasingly targets of identity thieves and cyber hackers and exposed to greater risk due to the inattention or negligence of their own personnel. Crowell & Moring's Privacy & Cybersecurity Group brings a holistic approach to addressing these issues. On the front end, we assist institutions in navigating the myriad state and federal privacy laws regarding the collection, protection and use of such data. We help them assess their data flow and cybersecurity practices to strengthen their defenses against cyber intrusions and identify and protect vulnerable and valuable digital information. This includes in-depth analysis of policies and procedures to ensure current and future compliance, assistance with developing a security program, and training to implement both. We also assist with vendor oversight by evaluating existing contracts, ensuring comprehensive and strong privacy provisions and developing improved procurement protocols. On the back end, we counsel and represent educational institutions in responding to data breaches involving personal information, trade secrets and intellectual property. We have extensive experience managing security incidents including investigating the scope of the incident, determining whether individual and governmental notification is required and defending federal and state enforcement actions and class actions. Read more.

International Commercial Ventures

We counsel universities working in, or seeking to expand into, the global marketplace, utilizing an integrated and cross-disciplinary approach drawing on our broad experience in, e.g., government contracts; intellectual property; cross-border corporate, finance and commercial issues; export controls; anti-bribery provisions; and taxation. Universities looking to capitalize their assets (e.g., research findings, technology advances, medical systems, training protocols) by entering into commercial ventures with foreign governments or other entities, look to Crowell & Moring to better understand the legal risks of expanding their commercial ventures beyond the United States, and for sound advice in navigating this global space.

These engagements involve navigating a complicated regulatory (and political) framework, while accounting for our university clients' unique strategic concerns. A representative example of Crowell & Moring's work in this market is our recent representation of a major university medical system in two precedent-setting transactions—a first-of-its kind medical training agreement with a Latin American government, and a $1.5 billion public-private partnership hospital project in the Middle East.

Our cross-disciplinary team of practitioners is devoted to understanding and addressing difficult legal issues facing university systems with innovative, cost-effective, and sustainable solutions, in partnership with each institution, tailored to its needs.

Labor and Employment

Our labor and employment attorneys count numerous universities among their clients for affirmative action counseling, equal employment opportunity investigations, counseling regarding promotion and tenure issues, and labor negotiations. Our preeminent affirmative action compliance team has assisted university clients who are government contractors or subcontractors. Our representations have ranged from helping academic institutions as new federal contractors or subcontractors set up their initial affirmative action plans (AAPs) and associated tracking mechanisms, to representing universities being audited by the Department of Labor's OFCCP. Our wage and hour practice likewise covers the full gamut of state and federal issues relating to payment of wages and classification of employees. We regularly advise our university clients on their compliance with the employee classification scheme mandated by the FLSA and perform compliance audits, in advance of litigation or governmental investigations. Our labor attorneys have extensive experience handling complex labor disputes and counsel universities with respect to collective bargaining negotiations and contract administration, including grievance arbitration. Universities also seek out our litigators for high-profile litigation involving the full range of employment disputes arising under federal, state, and common law. Read more.

Renewable Energy

Crowell & Moring's team of experienced attorneys and energy professionals is well suited to handle the issues confronting universities and other large energy users seeking to replace "brown" energy with renewable sources. We regularly advise clients, including renewable energy project developers, wholesale and retail customers, transmission companies, investor-owned utilities, and trade associations in all aspects of projects involving wind, solar, hydroelectric, biomass, and other renewable energy sources.

Depending on the user's needs, this replacement can be implemented by the user having renewable generation on-site (either owning the facility or having a third party own it and sell the output to the user under a long term contract) or by purchasing renewable energy from a larger off-site facility or other source. The firm is well qualified to advise universities and other energy users and their commercial advisers in RFPs for the selection of a provider, in the negotiation of power purchase agreements and other commercial contracts, and in the consideration of relevant regulatory and market issues. Read more.

Campus Crisis Management and Strategic Advising

We offer the full range of strategic counseling and litigation capabilities to assist our university clients in managing the most complex crises that affect their campuses, including the political and legal issues raised by multiple stakeholders. As an example, we have served as lead outside litigation counsel for a major public university, campus officials, and campus police departments in connection with all legal and governmental matters arising out of a much-publicized series of campus protests and other disturbances. Those incidents are the subject of a number of pending campus and system-wide investigations and reviews, as well as federal court litigation. Our role included advising senior university officials, the Office of the General Counsel, and campus counsel regarding a multiplicity of proceedings and investigations, communicating with constituencies including students, faculty, campus police, and other groups, public relations, and defending the university in section 1983 litigation alleging use of excessive force by the campus police.

Regulatory Compliance

Crowell & Moring has a deep bench of cross-disciplinary regulatory experience in a wide range of areas, including USDA and EPA regulations; export controls imposed by the U.S. Departments of Commerce and State and their application to university research, including the regulation of re-export of U.S.-origin technology to foreign persons in the United States or abroad; regulation of international transactions by the Office of Foreign Asset Control of the Department of the Treasury and the importation of scientific equipment; Title VI and Title IX compliance; and the Department of Education's Program Integrity rules under the Higher Education Act, as applied to online educational programs.


Crowell & Moring fields an experienced team of highly skilled lawyers from the firm's California, New York, and Washington, D.C., offices, bringing to bear a rare blend of insight, experience, and judgment that can only be gleaned from a team that includes lifelong defense lawyers, including former assistant federal defenders, as well as former prosecutors and enforcement attorneys from the Department of Justice, and the Office of Independent Counsel.

Our experience includes defending investigations by grand juries, the Department of Justice, the FBI, FDA, the IRS, congressional committees, independent and special counsels, federal agency inspectors general, and state attorneys general. We also are adept at handling parallel multinational investigations involving the FCPA and export controls, where the credentials and bona fides of former government officials from both sides of the Atlantic among our ranks can facilitate the necessary coordination with authorities and local counsel in other countries.