O’Melveny Worldwide

Education

Whether defending against high-stakes class actions or conducting sensitive internal investigations, O’Melveny is the law firm of choice for educational institutions facing hot-button issues.

“Brilliant lawyers, amazing writers and former Supreme Court law clerks.”—Client Testimonial, The Legal 500 US 

Whether defending against high-stakes class actions or conducting sensitive internal investigations, O’Melveny is the law firm of choice for educational institutions facing hot-button issues.

“Brilliant lawyers, amazing writers and former Supreme Court law clerks.”—Client Testimonial, The Legal 500 US 

When controversies with potentially damaging ramifications thrust educational institutions into the spotlight, trustees, regents, and administrators turn to O’Melveny for our suite of litigation, counseling, investigative, governmental, policy, and strategic communication services. Our interdisciplinary team of education, employment, white collar, and appellate lawyers—many with experience as federal prosecutors—help colleges and universities, independent schools, and public school districts craft strategic, comprehensive, and discreet responses to complex and highly sensitive allegations.

Counseling & Policy Advice. We advise colleges and universities on Title VII, Title IX, and Clery Act compliance, including the recent VAWA amendments and FERPA compliance. We work with educational programs at all levels to design appropriate compliance programs, and counsel clients on procedures for the censure and termination of staff, coaches and faculty. During the height of pandemic-related disruptions, we counseled clients on COVID-related issues, including remote learning, tuition, labor and employment, and return-to-school policies.

Internal Investigations. Our multidisciplinary team performs investigations on behalf of educational institutions and boards facing a range of sensitive issues, including allegations of and responses to campus sexual assault; potential Title VII, Title IX, and Clery Act violations; financial aid and admissions statistics reporting; and faculty misconduct. We have experience interviewing witnesses, reviewing relevant documents, coordinating with law enforcement and government agencies conducting their own investigations, understanding the impact of investigating with concurrent litigation and preparing reports for internal review or public disclosure.

Government Investigations and Proceedings. We represent academic institutions in investigations by and proceedings before the Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, Department of Justice, and Office of Federal Student Aid. We advise colleges and universities on Department of Education enforcement of federal student privacy laws.

Litigation. We represent educational institutions in a wide range of litigation, including Title IX federal and state court proceedings, wage and hour litigation, ERISA litigation, discrimination and harassment litigation, wrongful termination and retaliation cases, class actions, tort cases, and intellectual property litigation.

Policies on Student Athletes. We offer counsel on complying with the array of federal, state, and NCAA regulations governing student athletics. We have particular experience at the intersection of student athletics and bullying allegations.

Intellectual Property and Patents. We advise on protecting academic institutions’ intellectual property rights and represent them in litigating patent disputes.

Data Privacy and Security. We advise on managing data privacy and security matters to ensure that educational institutions comply with a growing number of federal and state best practices and regulatory guidance.

Transactions. We work closely with our corporate teams to represent colleges and universities, investors, and financial institutions in financings, acquisitions, and other transactions.

California State University

Advising CSU in a suite of cases and related matters related to sexual misconduct by the former San Jose State University director and head athletic trainer, including, but not limited to, defending CSU in a class action and individual plaintiff case asserting Title IX and negligent supervision, retention, and hiring claims; and two wrongful termination cases brought in state court alleging retaliation for raising issues related to underlying sexual harassment charges.

Harvard University

Achieved dismissal of a former student’s retaliation claims, where the District of Massachusetts ruled, in rejecting the student’s claims, that the investigation and discipline imposed complied with university policies and procedures and state laws.

Harvard University

Secured summary judgment in a TItle IX lawsuit filed by a former student, who claimed the university ignored her claims of sexual assault, harassment, and retaliation.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Successfully resolved an ERISA class action brought against MIT. Plaintiffs alleged that MIT and other plan fiduciaries violated their duties by causing the plan to offer too many investment options, rather than a smaller number of low-cost funds, and by causing the plan to bear allegedly excessive costs for administrative services. The district court partially granted O’Melveny’s motion to dismiss, which successfully narrowed the plaintiffs’ claims, and the case ultimately settled on the eve of trial.

Nevada System of Higher Education

Represented the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education in connection with an investigation into high-profile public allegations of misconduct against a Regent and senior Board staff member.

Occidental College

Obtained dismissal with prejudice of a putative class action arising out of Occidental’s transition to remote instruction in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. This was one of the first decisions to dismiss this kind of “tuition refund” claim with prejudice, and the first case in which a judge has held that the educational malpractice doctrine bars contract and tort claims challenging the move from in-person to online instruction.

Occidental College

Represented the college in a lawsuit by a former athletic director arising out of events following the cancellation of a College football game, alleging Occidental was liable for harassment, discrimination, and constructive termination. O’Melveny’s opposition of plaintiff’s discovery motions resulted in the court finding complaints of student sexual misconduct irrelevant to the plaintiff’s claims and upholding the attorney-client privilege and work product over partially-disclosed internal investigation findings. The parties settled before the Court ruled on Occidental’s motion for summary adjudication.

Pennsylvania's Schoolchildren

In collaboration with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania, convinced judge that the state constitution requires the equitable distribution of education resources for all children, and that the state was not meeting this standard. 

Regents of the University of California

Conducted an independent investigation into UCLA’s response to allegations of sexual misconduct by former UCLA physicians, which involved working closely with various administrative stakeholders within UCLA and the UC system to develop policy and process recommendations. O’Melveny reported its factual findings and related recommendations to the Regents, who issued O’Melveny’s public report and applied the recommendations across the UC system.

Syracuse University

Conducted an internal investigation into student athlete allegations of misconduct by a head coach of Syracuse University’s women’s basketball program. The alleged behavior ranged from unwanted physical contact and threats and other forms of bullying of players. We made recommendations for improving the Syracuse sports program’s environment and culture, including measures to identify, escalate, and address student athlete concerns in the future. In a statement released to the media, Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack thanked the O’Melveny team “for the thoroughness of their work.”

University of Southern California

Conducted a thorough and neutral internal investigation into USC’s handling of sexual abuse allegations against a former USC student health gynecologist and related reporting failures. Following our final report to the Board, USC introduced a variety of remedial measures.

University of Virginia's Board of Visitors

Served as independent counsel in connection with the review of the University’s response to an allegation of sexual assault as reported in Rolling Stone magazine.

Representative Clients
California State University
Center for Early Education
Claremont McKenna College
Harvard University
Occidental College
Regents of the University of California
Syracuse University
University of Southern California
Caltech
Boston College

“This team stands out for its intelligence, insight into our business, ability to provide practical advice, written work product, and ability to litigate a case in court.”

Client Testimonial, The Legal 500 US, Labor and Employment Disputes (Including Collective Actions): Defense

 

“If you have an employment claim that may create a risk of significant monetary or reputational harm, this group should be on your speed dial.’”

—Client Testimonial, The Legal 500 US, Labor and Employment Disputes (Including Collective Actions): Defense

“They have a very bright team who give excellent legal advice and are very thorough.”

Client Testimonial, Chambers USA, Labor & Employment

O’Melveny features “a truly exceptional team,” which is praised for its “singular focus on delivering the best representation for clients.”

Client Testimonial, The Legal 500 US, White Collar Defense & Corporate Investigations

An “intellectual powerhouse,” Apalla Chopra is recognized for her “expertise in representing educational institutions.”

 —Client Testimonial, Chambers USA, Labor & Employment