Our school law attorneys use a proactive approach to counsel our more-than-30 independent school clients, including boarding and day schools, Montessori schools, Waldorf schools and religiously affiliated schools.
We have been Counsel to the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools for over 20 years, representing many of its member schools directly in a wide range of legal issues such as student admissions and discipline, faculty relations, fund development and charitable giving, mandated reporting, real property tax exemption, corporate governance, finance, environmental land use and a wide variety of litigation and labor issues.
Our attorneys understand the complex issues and the unique nature of the independent school environment, including all aspects of boarding school communities. As a full-service law firm, we provide integrated counsel and support on matters of particular interest and importance to our independent school clients, in a timely and cost-effective manner. Our work with independent schools includes matters related to:
We conduct regular on-site professional development and training workshops on a variety of legal issues and matters of concern, including:
Student Trips and Travel For more information and to schedule an on-site training, visit our Professional Development and Training Workshops page.
Faculty and Student Matters
Our attorneys understand the unique relationship between faculty and students at independent schools. We are experienced in providing practical and legal advice on the range of issues that schools face on a daily basis, including issues relating to professional boundaries, student health, confidentiality, student disciplinary matters, sexual harassment and bullying, and mandated reporting. In addition, we routinely assist our school clients in developing legally compliant handbooks, and counsel on compliance with laws affecting faculty and students, such as the ADA and other civil rights laws.
Critical to the operation of independent schools is the proper functioning of their boards. We routinely advise boards on best practices in governance and policy development, including review of bylaws and conflict of interest policies. We are frequently asked to provide counsel and assistance on crisis management, including communications, media relations, and community response.
Labor and Employment
Employment issues at independent schools can be complex, given the varied and multiple roles of faculty and staff. Our attorneys are exceptionally experienced on advising our schools on the full range of employment matters, from hiring practices and employment policies, to handbooks, proper employee classification, contracts, employee discipline and terminations. Schools rely on us to handle all aspects of employment disputes from administrative proceedings to litigation in state and federal court. In addition, our pension and employee benefits attorneys provide our independent school clients with specialized advice with respect to all aspects of employee benefits, as well as executive compensation and similar matters.
Finance, Investments, Taxation and Tax-Exemption
Our attorneys advise our independent school clients on all their finance matters, including tax-exempt financing through the State of Connecticut Health and Educational Facilities Authority. We assist with federal, state and local tax compliance and taxation issues involving charitable giving, as well advise on financial issues that relate to scholarship and tuition remission programs, tax-exempt status, unrelated business taxable income, employee housing, Head of School compensation, sales and use tax exposure, and real and personal property tax exemptions.
We have comprehensive experience with the management and compliance of endowment funds and investments. Shipman & Goodwin partner Barry Hawkins served as the Chairman of the Uniform Law Commission that drafted the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (UPMIFA) and conducts a national practice on UPMIFA compliance. As such, the firm’s depth in the area of endowment funds and investments is unique.
Our independent school clients frequently rely on us to provide legal representation on a variety of real estate matters, including the acquisition, development and management of property, planning and zoning, conveyancing, leasing, environmental compliance, and risk management.
Our intellectual property attorneys advise clients on sophisticated issues, such as trademarks, licensing and registration, copyright infringement, and data privacy counseling. We counsel independent schools in the areas of software contract negotiation, consulting agreements, internet, e-mail and social media issues, and website development.