When representing an institution of higher education that was merging with another, Hirschfeld Kraemer helped to unify the distinct cultures of the two schools.
Our Work in Higher Education
Hirschfeld Kraemer has expertise in higher education that few firms can rival. We are always mindful of the human dynamics in academic settings. In representing higher education clients, our attorneys take on a variety of roles—including legal counselor, consultant, and confidant—and come up with creative solutions. Our goal is to be responsive, whether the matter is a long-term engagement requiring advanced planning or a sudden development that needs immediate attention. At Hirschfeld Kraemer, we offer legal assistance on student affairs and accreditation issues as well as a host of labor and employment law matters, including faculty and staff discipline and terminations, faculty tenure issues, union organizing and collective bargaining, campus workforce reductions and reorganizations, and executive employment agreements. We also have expertise addressing the unique legal issues that arise with church and religious-affiliated institutions.
Hirschfeld Kraemer’s work on a recent merger is a case in point. Bill Ross, of counsel in the firm’s Santa Monica office, prepared the corporate documents, and San Francisco partner Natasha Baker, whose primary practice area is higher education law, offered counsel and advice on a wide range of issues, including employment law, accreditation, Department of Education compliance, and contracts.
Combination lawyer and project manager
The merger presented the firm with the challenge and opportunity to deal with all aspects of the merging institutions: What does it look like to have two campuses? What’s the best leadership structure? The engagement involved both long-range planning and all the day-to-day issues that arose during the process of preparing for the merger. We worked closely with the university’s President, Provost, Chief Financial Officer, and Chair of the Board on the mechanics of merging two sets of faculty, staff, student populations, and boards of trustees into one institution.
For example, an important issue for all involved was the status of tenured faculty upon the merger. That involved reviewing the contracts and policy handbooks of both schools and drawing up new contracts for tenured professors.
Two distinct cultures
Hirschfeld Kraemer also had to draft policies and procedures that merged the distinct cultures of the two schools. We successfully transported best procedures from both institutions while also addressing the unique concerns of each. We participated in the roll-out of new policies, including a new student handbook and a new disciplinary process. The result was a unified school, encompassing the two campuses.
Additional steps in the process included working with both the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the accrediting organization for California, and the federal Department of Education, which needs to approve mergers of schools that receive federal funding. The firm’s higher education expertise was a huge asset in this process.
Whether your college or university is in need of representation for a long-term project such as a merger or requires immediate advice and counsel as a result of an expected incident on campus, our higher education team is prepared to help, at a moment’s notice.