building the future

Higher Education & Academic Research Institutions
Sophisticated solutions for complex challenges facing higher education and academic research institutions.


For decades, Dorsey has prioritized serving the legal needs of the higher education and academic research sector and the organizations that partner and do business with them. We have assisted some of the world’s foremost academic research institutions, colleges, and universities in navigating the complexities and unique challenges facing their operations, governance, finances, and reputation. 

Our multidisciplinary approach spans the globe and is enhanced by the experience we have developed in representing higher education and academic research clients and those who partner and do business with them on matters involving regulatory compliance, IP, labor and employment, investigations, government contracts and grants, export controls and sanctions, corporate compliance and transactions, licensing and other technology commerce, real estate, financing, construction and design, immigration, nonprofit & tax-exempt matters, healthcare, and, in litigation or other dispute resolution forums when disputes arise.

Our team includes former governmental attorneys specializing in higher education, members of the National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA), and attorneys serving as adjunct faculty, trustees, or board members for university or college alumni associations. We frequently work with leading nonprofit societies of scientists, engineers, physicians, and scholars, and have expertise in counseling nonprofit institutions and their related nonprofit or for-profit entities. We have a deep understanding of both the mission and business of academic research and higher learning institutions, and the impact that our legal services have on these clients and those who partner and do business with them.  


Our Expertise

At Dorsey, we have comprehensive services tailored specifically to higher education and academic research institutions.

Export Controls and Sanctions + -
Government and Internal Investigations + -
Government Contracts and Grants + -
Nonprofit & Tax-Exempt Organizations + -
Higher Education Law + -
Data Privacy and Cybersecurity + -
Healthcare + -
Licensing and Other Technology Commerce + -
Public Finance + -
Real Estate, Construction, and Design + -
Civil Litigation + -
Immigration + -
Labor and Employment + -
Intellectual Property + -


Representative Matters:

Export Controls and Sanctions

  • Prepared a commodity jurisdiction request for a large state university that led to a State Department confirmation of the university’s advanced services for the satellite industry were not subject to the ITAR and, instead, could be supplied internationally to satellite owners and operators on an EAR99 basis because of changes in the law under Export Control Reform.
  • Advised on multiple successful license applications to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to enable university or other institutional researchers to work and provide instruction at conferences or programs in OFAC-embargoed countries such as Cuba, Iran and Sudan.
  • Recovered extremely expensive university research equipment that had been seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) while being returned to the foreign equipment manufacturer for service without an export license that the CBP mistakenly believed to be needed for such an export.
  • Advised university counsel and administrators on multiple research collaborations between U.S. investigators and their peers in OFAC-embargoed countries, including a bilateral book publication and conference arrangement between co-sponsors in the U.S. and Iran that was approved by OFAC.
  • Investigated and prepared an extensive voluntary self-disclosure to OFAC regarding a commercial life sciences service provider that supports thousands of academic researchers around the world, leading to a successful closure of the matter with minimal consequences to the provider.
  • Prepared, reviewed and assisted in the application of multiple university compliance policies and procedures with regard to export controls and economic sanctions, and assisted university counsel to conduct discreet and thorough investigations of cases of suspected violations of export control or economic sanctions compliance policies and laws.
  • Advised university counsel and administrators on the enrollment of certain foreign students in exceptionally sensitive courses or programs that could be related to the design and development of weapons of mass destruction.
  • Assisted university counsel in working with OFAC to interpret and apply its sanctions regulations to faculty members doing research on university computational facilities in the United States while working remotely from another country.
  • Advised a life science research institute’s human resources and legal departments on the recruitment and employment of a post-doctoral fellow from Iran to assist in the institute’s research activities.
  • Advised several state universities on becoming and remaining eligible to perform classified government research on behalf of the Department of Defense.

Government and Internal Investigations

  • Conducted an internal investigation for a private university related to the False Claims Act and fraud claims. 
  • Advised a Big 12 university in a multi-year investigation related to alleged foreign influence, intellectual-property theft, and violations of Federal grant rules (NSF) that resulted in no action against the institution.
  • Represented one of the world’s largest academic research institutions in multiple independent investigations related to foreign influence and violations of federal grant rules.
  • Advised a preeminent academic research institution in conjunction with federal investigations of multiple faculty members, undisclosed affiliations, and disclosures to federal agencies.
  • Represented a large public university in conducting a review of its response to sexual misconduct allegations in the athletic department, including a review of athletic department and Title IX program responses.
  • Represented a public “Ivy” university in a multi-year national security and fraud investigation related to alleged foreign influence, violations of Federal grant rules, and alleged “economic espionage” by faculty members that resulted in no action against the institution.
  • Advised a Mountain West university in conjunction with compliance issues under the Justice Department’s “China Initiative” and parallel agency and Justice Department investigations.
  • Represented a large public university in responding to a federal money laundering and asset forfeiture investigation and grand jury subpoenas, and the civil forfeiture donation from a benefactor resulting in US DOJ declination and no forfeiture or civil or criminal action against the client.  
  • Managed sensitive Title IX investigations and advised on student discipline decisions for a university.
  • Represented the recipient of federal grant funds in conjunction with allegations of improper billing practices, including an internal investigation and agency disclosure.

Government Contracts and Grants

  • Designed federal-contracting and grant-compliance systems for multiple leading universities and academic research institutions.
  • Represented a public agency in the successful defense of a federal lawsuit challenging the agency’s minority-preference law for the award of public contracts.
  • Represented R1 Research Institution in conjunction with alleged grant fraud and related whistleblower allegations.
  • Represented a large public university system in conjunction with $300M software contract, including negotiations with vendor related to change orders related to same.
  • Reviewed and negotiated for a renowned research center the terms of a contract with the US government under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The matter was successfully resolved.
  • Represented an academic research institution in responding to a federal grand jury subpoena issued by the US Attorney’s Office concerning NIH funding. The matter was successfully resolved.
  • Represented a leading academic research institution in conjunction with False Claims Act litigation.  Obtained declination and dismissal of all claims. 

Nonprofit & Tax-Exempt Organizations

  • Represented a tax-exempt organization on response to Civil Investigative Demands (“CID”) from state Attorney Generals. 
  • Obtained a tax-exempt charitable status for the nonprofit network of Christian Science providers in appeal reversing initial denial of tax-exempt status by Internal Revenue Service. 
  • Obtained a tax-exempt charitable status for a world-class University-related research park in Montana. 
  • Represented a hospital conversion foundation to address public charity status following the sale of a hospital. 
  • Dorsey has served The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a private not-for-profit company, for over 20 years in connection with their policies, standards promulgation, and financial transactions. 

Data Privacy & Cybersecurity

  • Represented a R1 research institution in negotiations with Federal agencies regarding a network monitoring agreement.
  • Represented an international educational organization for in-school programs as it relates to state law privacy compliance. 
  • Represented university partnerships relating to name, image and likeness (NIL) programs for athletes.


  • Represented a world-renowned clinic in the creation of a joint venture with a group of large U.S. hospital systems to form a new, not-for-profit generic drug company intended to help patients by addressing shortages and driving down prices of key generic medications. 
  • Represented a medical device manufacturer, in its merger with a large health care products company.
  • Represented a hospital in connection with the acquisition of its region's largest heart clinic to create a highly integrated cardiovascular service line.  
  • Represented healthcare entities in merger reviews and other antitrust conduct matters before state and federal regulators, including responding to CIDs and Second Requests under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act. 
  • Successfully defended a credentialing organization against claims alleging negligence for viral outbreak at hospital. 

Technology Commerce

  • Represent a vast range of private sector clients from start-ups accessing technology in early stage through to large public companies engaged in research and development projects and advancing their products and services in the structuring, interpreting, drafting and negotiating of material transfer agreements, sponsored research agreements, gift agreements, option agreements, license agreements, and other contracts with  academic research institutions, colleges, and universities in the United States and around the world.
  • Represent a higher education institution with multiple state colleges and universities and campuses in their acquisition of mission critical human resources, finance and student software and implementation services from a private vendor.
  • Represented a vendor of software-as-a-service in their roll out, drafting and negotiating of contracts with multiple higher education institution for higher education fundraising.
  • Represent an education technology organization in drafting and negotiating contracts with their higher education institution clients for the use of their scientifically valid, universal scales for measuring reading and mathematics, and measuring content.
  • Assisted in-house counsel for a local university with negotiating and drafting a license agreement to use a trademark owned by one of the athletic coaches on merchandise, stadium signage, promotional materials, and other related electronic and printed collateral.
  • For a financial testing and certifying organization, negotiated content license agreements, and, prepared template reseller and consulting advisory agreements.
  • Represented the third largest public university system in the United States in a $300 million software upgrade project, including serving as lead claims and disputes counsel with the private vendor.

Public Finance

  • Represented the Regents of the University of Minnesota, as bond counsel, in connection with $500,000,000 General Obligation Taxable Bonds, Series 2022.
  • Represented the Board of Regents of Higher Education for the State of Montana, as bond counsel, in connection with $60,000,000 University of Montana, General Revenue Bonds, Series 2022.
  • Represented the Board of Regents of Higher Education for the State of Montana, as bond counsel, in connection with $14,385,000 Montana State University General Revenue Refunding Bonds, Series J 2023.
  • Represented Oregon State University in connection with the defeasance of conduit bonds (State of Oregon, Oregon Facilities Authority Revenue Bonds (College Inn Student Housing Project), and the unwinding of a lease and related documentation.
  • Represented RBC Capital Markets, as underwriters counsel, in connection with $159,390,000 Minnesota Higher Education Facilities Authority Revenue Bonds, Series 2024A (University of St. Thomas), Series 2024B (University of St. Thomas) (Green Bonds), Taxable Revenue Bonds, Series 2024C (University of St. Thomas) (Green Bonds).

Real Estate, Construction, and Design

  • Lead development counsel for all elements of the ground lease acquisition, construction, financing and disposition of a 259-room, dual-branded hotel development on a university campus.
  • Construction counsel to a large Pacific Northwest public university.
  • Construction counsel to a public university in Minnesota for various projects, including a student life center, student housing, and instructional buildings.
  • Real estate counsel in negotiation of a 10-year lease with a developer of a former New York City public school to be converted into a dormitory for undergraduate students of an independent college in New York, NY.
  • Environmental counsel for the construction of a $270M physics laboratory, a joint project by a large university in Minnesota and a laboratory.
  • Environmental counsel for $50 million in enhanced mitigation for a large public university in Minnesota to address vibration, electromagnetic interference, and traffic congestion from light rail transit operations.
  • Bond counsel to a large public university in Minnesota in a variety of transactions, including funding $273M in construction costs and infrastructure improvements for biomedical science research facilities within the University’s Biomedical Discovery District, and financing construction of the University’s football stadium.
  • Counsel for a metropolitan New York university in connection with the reimbursement by DASNY of $10M in “green” retrofitting costs for a turn of the century administration building.
  • Counsel in a direct placement transaction for a $15M construction project at a university in Idaho with respect to its alumni center.
  • Counsel in a direct placement transaction for a $20M construction project at a university in Missouri with respect to its football facility and student housing facilities.
  • Bond counsel to state universities in Montana for a variety of transactions, including a $92M financing for capital improvements, $45M for a student wellness center, and $58M financing for a new 400 student dormitory and renovation of dining halls.
  • Public offering and remarketing of an aggregate of $380M of senior secured notes by a university hospital authority in Colorado, a hospital corporation, and a political subdivision of the State of Colorado.
  • A $75M bond financing for the campus at a university in Colorado with respect to the construction and equipment of a ten-story addition to the existing Hospital Building on the campus, parking garage, and parking space expansion.
  • A $200M bond financing for a university hospital authority in Colorado with respect to the construction of an additional five floors of an inpatient tower, construction of a new four-story critical care wing with surgery center, cardiac and vascular center, and, intensive care beds.


  • Secured green cards and performed other immigration work for faculty.
  • Obtained and advised on non-immigrant status and visas for employers on behalf of foreign nationals working temporarily in the United States. These include: A, H-1B, H-2, H-3, TN, L-1, E-1, E-2, E-3, J-1, O, P, and R non-immigrant status.
  • Counseled on elements and required documents for foreign visitors to the United States, and obtained B-1 business status and visas.
  • Obtained permanent labor certifications and subsequent approval of EB-2 and EB-3 immigrant petitions and permanent resident applications.
  • Obtained EB-1 immigrant petitions for persons of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and, international managers/executives.
  • Advised on H-3 trainee and J-1 exchange visitor trainee programs and obtained status and visas.
  • Advised F-1 foreign students and institutions and J-1 exchange visitors and sponsors on maintenance of status and employment issues.
  • Assisted foreign investors and traders and their essential employees on E-2 Investor and E-1 Trader visa options and work authorization.
  • Provided training and advice to corporate clients on I-9 compliance requirements.
  • Advised on the immigration issues arising from business formation, corporate mergers/acquisitions and other major organizational changes.
  • Represented employers and foreign physicians/medical graduates on applications for J-1 waiver of the two-year foreign residency requirement and subsequent H-1B and permanent residency applications.
  • Represented/prepared foreign nationals for all types of interviews held before the Immigration authority U.S. consular officers abroad regarding visa issuance.

Labor and Employment

  • Represented a college in collective bargaining with a union representing adjunct faculty.
  • Provided employment advice and drafted policies for universities.
  • Advised on post-divestiture reduction in force following the merger of two law schools.
  • Represented a university in faculty grievances, terminations, and severance negotiations.
  • Responded to and successfully represented a university in EEOC and DOL charges.
  • Advised on FERPA-compliance issues, including responses to subpoenas for student education records for a university.
  • Negotiated a settlement with the Department of Education on alleged Clery Act violations by a university.
  • Won Summary Judgment defeating allegations of Title IX gender discrimination and retaliation. Judgment affirmed in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Won a dismissal of breach of contract claims by tenured professors at a private university and won a three-week jury trial on a claim for $900M in damages against an Arizona municipality.
  • Represented a community college system in an employment investigation.

Intellectual Property

  • Represented a large public university in responding to allegations of ethics violations within the University’s Office of General Counsel by a defendant in a large patent infringement matter.
  • Assisted a University’s technology transfer office protect key inventions for licensing and further commercial development with projects including structurally insulated building panels made from recycled paper and fibers, improved heat exchanger designs for use in HVAC, fuel cells, solar power and heating, wind, geothermal, and, ocean energy generation.
  • Represented one of the country’s leading universities to prosecute patents and commercialize its inventions, including biofuels, fuel cells, semiconductors and photovoltaics, spectroscopy, and, medical devices.
  • Assisted in-house counsel for a local university with negotiating and drafting a license agreement to use a trademark owned by one of the athletic coaches on merchandise, stadium signage, promotional materials, and other related electronic and printed collateral.
  • Handled global trademark and copyright prosecution and enforcement of a medically-focused university and preventing misuse of university names by former graduates.
  • Opposed trademark applications for a large university and favorably settled a dispute with another Division I university, alerted the client to the need for, and prepared, an agreement for the license of a trademark from an individual to the university in a high-profile setting, and advised on complex prosecution issues.
  • Handled all trademark searching, prosecution, and maintenance, quickly disposing an aggressive infringement claim brought against a university radio station.
  • Enforced a professional examination certification program’s registered and unregistered trademarks against the unauthorized use of the client’s trademarks by unlicensed providers of courses as part of domain names, on websites and in account names in social media channels.
  • Represented the world’s largest private nonprofit educational testing and assessment organization in disputes with a former distributor and trademark licensee and its franchisees due to a breach of distribution agreement and trademark license agreement, as well as a trademark and copyright infringement.


Chambers Leading Construction Practice 2021

Dorsey Leading Real Estate Practice-Chambers 2023

Best Law Firms 2024 Top Land Use & Zoning Law Practice

Chambers Global 2023 Leading International Trade Practice

Tier 1 Health Care Law in Minneapolis, U.S. News-Best Law Firms 2021

US News Best Lawyers 2022 Leading Technology Law Firm

Best Lawyers

Leading Labor & Employment Practice-Chambers 2021

Leading Immigration Firm Legal 500 US 2021

US News Best Lawyers 2022 Top Employment Law-Management Law Firm

US News Best Lawyers 2021 Top Labor & Employment Litigation Law Firm

US News Best Lawyers 2021 Tier 1 Commercial Litigation Law Firm

American College of Trial Lawyers-3 Attorney Members 2019

US News Best Lawyers 2022 Leading Tax Law Firm


Nicole Engisch
Practice Group Co-Leader
Alex Hontos
Practice Group Co-Leader

Industries & Practices

Cybersecurity, Privacy & Social Media
Government Solutions & Investigations
Government Contracts Counseling & Litigation
Healthcare Transactions & Regulations
International Arbitration & Litigation
Nonprofit & Tax Exempt Organizations
  • Anti-Corruption Group
  • Commercial Litigation
  • Construction & Design
  • Construction Litigation
  • Cybersecurity, Privacy & Social Media
  • Government Contracts Counseling & Litigation
  • Government Solutions & Investigations
  • Healthcare & Life Sciences
  • Healthcare Litigation
  • Healthcare Transactions & Regulations
  • Immigration
  • Intellectual Property
  • Intellectual Property Litigation
  • International Arbitration & Litigation
  • International Trade
  • Labor & Employment
  • Medical Devices
  • National Security Law
  • Nonprofit & Tax Exempt Organizations
  • Patent Prosecution & Strategy
  • Real Estate & Land Use
  • Real Estate Litigation
  • Tax Controversy & Litigation
  • Technology
  • Trademark, Copyright + Advertising