Overview of the Higher Education Practice
For our education clients in the nonprofit sector, compliance issues are a critical consideration in nearly every transaction and a law firm cannot justly serve higher education clients without developing a specialized expertise in the areas of education law, nonprofit law, and the laws governing tax-exempt organizations. Our firm has that expertise. Schnader’s Higher Education Practice Group discusses the issues affecting the Firm’s college and university clients and through this collaborative process we strengthen the depth of our expertise on substantive legal issues. This approach increases our collective knowledge, which affords our clients the benefits of work we have done for similarly situated clients and ensures that our clients are served by a team of individuals who understand the higher education industry, know their organization well, and work well together to respond to the needs of individual institutions.
The result is that we are able to respond quickly to complex issues and provide support for the Firm’s higher education clients regardless of whether the matters involve litigation, real estate transactions, employment issues, a student issue or crisis, planned giving or development efforts, nonprofit tax or governance issues, intellectual property, or contractual work. This coordinated and collaborative approach helps keep legal costs down, which is crucial in today’s economic climate, especially for our nonprofit clients.
Our Approach to Client Service
Clients typically call when they have a problem, requesting advice on an isolated issue or transaction (such as an IRS audit or denial of a sales and use tax exemption), and while we excel at responding quickly to resolve our college and university clients’ most pressing legal needs, we prefer to establish a long-term, on-going relationship with these clients so that we may provide lasting value in all aspects of their operations, including meeting the institution’s strategic goals through training, policy and procedure review, and mission development. We believe we have more to offer an organization when we work closely with our nonprofit clients as outside counsel by working on a regular basis with an organization’s in-house counsel and executives. By working collaboratively with a college’s or university’s administration and faculty, and its advisory team (be they fundraising or HR consultants, or accountants or investment managers), we believe our approach helps build stronger organizations and can help control costs.
For example, when one organization came to us because it was unsuccessful in appealing the denial of its sales and use tax exemption, we successfully represented the client before the Board of Finance and Revenue and obtained the exemption. However, recognizing that the client’s problems arose from internal issues, we turned our focus to organizational issues from within the institution, educating our client about the need to renew the sales and use tax exemption and the proper use of sales and use tax exemption certificates. This is one of many examples of how our services have helped serve our clients’ immediate needs while also making them stronger institutions.
Our Breadth of Experience and Perspective
Many of Schnader’s lawyers bring expertise and experience to the matters for our college and university clients, whether as counsel or board members for educational organizations, or as professionals who became lawyers after working in higher educational institutions. For example, one of Schnader’s lawyers worked for over twelve years as a Student Affairs administrator, most recently as the Assistant Dean of Students at a local Philadelphia university, and brings a practical, hands-on understanding of higher education law to the practice group.
The Higher Education Practice Group is managed by Paul Titus, from the Pittsburgh office, and Marilyn Kutler, from the Firm’s Philadelphia office, who share a combined 60 years of experience representing college and university clients. Together, they lead Schnader in serving some of the Commonwealth’s most established colleges and universities. Under their leadership, the Firm has served and continues to serve colleges and universities, school districts, school boards, and community colleges throughout the country.
Schnader's Higher Education Practice is designed to provide the Firm’s college and university clients with the support they need to address the legal issues they encounter both in their daily operations and as they plan for the future.