Pullman & Comley’s Colleges, Universities and Independent Schools practice combines knowledge of the unique legal needs of educational institutions with the strengths of a full-service commercial law firm, in order to address both clients’ academic and “business” needs.  We work directly with general counsel, senior management, and boards, as well as with human resources offices and athletic departments, acting both as trusted advisors within the institution, and forceful advocates outside of it.  The relationships in our Colleges, Universities and Independent Schools practice are some of the firm’s longest, and among those in which we take particular pride.  Many of the attorneys in this practice group have themselves served as trustees and directors of educational institutions, faculty members, and alumni leaders, and all of them share our clients’ intellectual and community-service missions.

The areas on which we provide counsel include:

  • Governance and organizational issues
  • Regulatory compliance, including research, data security, healthcare, Freedom of Information law
  • Financial matters, including the issuance of bonds, notes and leases 
  • Endowments and philanthropic law
  • Student affairs, including educational privacy, discipline, and residency
  • Employment law, including union negotiations, faculty discipline, executive compensation, and pensions
  • Investigations
  • Intellectual property
  • Title IX matters, both in athletics and in sexual conduct cases
  • Capital projects, including bonding for public institutions
  • Real estate, including purchases, development, land use, environmental law, and property tax exemptions
  • Procurement
  • Alternative energy and energy efficiency projects
  • Litigation and dispute resolution

Most recently, we have also been closely involved in counseling clients on COVID-19-related matters including obtaining alternative student housing to facilitate social distancing, the repurposing of vacant college dormitories to house first responders, and helping administrations address the effects of travel bans on faculty and students.


Contracts and procurement

  • negotiated and drafted outsourcing and vendor agreements for student health services, food services, student bookstores, and extracurricular activities
  • advised university on structuring unique student internship agreements with local businesses
  • represented a university in the permitting, financing and development of a 25 MW cogeneration facility allowing the university to operate independent of the power grid
  • represented colleges and universities in procuring energy from the competitive power markets
  • represented college in developing on-site alternative energy resources
  • represented college in contracting for energy efficiency services 
  • represented private school in dealing with local utility in converting heating system from oil to natural gas

 Employment law

  • represented institutions in collective bargaining negotiations with faculty unions
  • negotiated and drafted employment agreements between institutions and their presidents and other senior officers
  • provide general employment law advice and counseling related to policies, discipline, hiring and terminations
  • counseled institutions on retirement plans, ERISA compliance, and IRS “reasonable compensation” rules


  • since 2003, served as bond counsel to the University of Connecticut and has represented it in connection with the financing of more than $1.5 billion of UConn 2000 projects through the issuance of bonds, notes, leases and other obligations and the administration of the UConn 2000 program
  • since 2005, served as bond counsel to the Connecticut Health & Educational Facilities Authority (CHEFA) with respect to the issuance of 501(c)(3) revenue bonds for educational, childcare and health care institutions totaling more than $2 billion

Governance and organizational relationships

  • counsel board on corporate governance matters
  • draft revisions to university bylaws
  • negotiated and drafted joint venture agreements between institutions and other non-profit entities to accomplish common goals


  • counseled universities on faculty immigration matters including green card sponsorship, outstanding professor / researcher petitions, H-1B and J-1 visas
  • advised universities on SEVIS regulations and other student-visa matters, including coronavirus-related visa compliance issues

Intellectual property

  • counsel institutions on intellectual property rights arising from research activities and on policies and employment agreement provisions relating to intellectual property
  • represent universities in licensing and technology transfer transactions
  • advise on copyright matters


  • recovered endowment funds lost in a market collapse by one of New England's leading liberal arts colleges, in a FINRA arbitration alleging that the college’s broker had failed to follow trading instructions for stock gifted to the college
  • successfully defended a university in an unfair trade practices and trade secrets dispute, and a related injunction application, arising from its acquisition of a large athletic facility
  • defeated bankruptcy “clawback” claims against multiple university clients of the firm, seeking disgorgement of tuition payments made by debtors on behalf of family members

Real estate and environmental

  • represented university in environmental matters for acquisition of 66-acre former corporate facility
  • negotiated public-private partnership between college and city for joint use of athletic fields
  • negotiated "payment in lieu of taxes" agreements with respect to school properties
  • represented University of Connecticut in the relocation of its West Hartford library facilities and operations to the main branch of the Hartford Public Library in downtown Hartford, in an innovative and highly-successful collaborative effort with the City of Hartford
  • assisted with the acquisition, remediation and development of an arts magnet school, a branch of the University of Connecticut, parking garages and streetscapes, and the restoration and expansion of a 3,000-seat historic theater
  • represented a university in connection with its disposition of property where environmental contaminants were present
  • represented the University of Connecticut in connection with the development of the Jackson Laboratories facility located on former UConn property
  • represented universities in transactions to acquire new real estate for socially-distant housing arrangements during coronavirus outbreak, as well as to lease campus housing for housing emergency personnel
  • represented schools in connection with the removal of asbestos-containing material and materials contaminated with PCBs 

Regulatory compliance

  • advised institutions on FERPA and federal funding requirements
  • counseled a university hospital on export control regulations involving medical technology
  • advised on ethics rules in connection with an endorsement contract between university sports coaches and athletic clothing company

Student issues

  • advised institution regarding revision of concussion management protocol for athletics program, and compliance with Arrington settlement
  • revised college’s student housing policies and agreements
  • advised institution on application of disciplinary procedures, and represented it in negotiations with student claiming unfair treatment
  • advised college re accommodations for disabilities in disciplinary processes  

Title IX

  • conducted Title IX audit of university athletics department and made program restructuring recommendations to achieve compliance
  • investigated both student-on-student sexual misconduct claims and alleged sexual harassment by faculty members
  • counseled universities, colleges and schools on structuring investigation and discipline procedures and drafting related policies
  • advised college concerning revision of Title IX and sexual misconduct policies to comply with new Title IX regulations

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