Goldberg Segalla LLP

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Higher Education

Goldberg Segalla offers an all-inclusive suite of services to public and private colleges and universities. We provide counsel to presidents, administrators, trustees, and staff on pressing issues including financing, governance, day-to-day operations, and ethics and regulatory compliance. With a team of attorneys drawing on deep backgrounds in higher education — including former Human Resources administrators and general counsel to public universities — Goldberg Segalla brings to every client valuable knowledge of trends and current issues in higher education, an appreciation for budgetary restraints and priorities, and an inherent sensitivity to media exposure.

Like experienced educators, our attorneys have deep and diverse areas of specialization, and call on each other to meet all of our clients’ needs, providing truly comprehensive counsel.

Like experienced administrators, we know how to deliver that counsel efficiently and on a budget — eschewing Big Law practices that drive up billable hours and court costs, and opting instead to tailor services to clients’ needs and means.

Serving public and private universities across several states, our attorneys offer counsel on the full range of concerns that educational institutions face, in areas including operations, governance, budgets and finances, academic affairs, labor and employment, business services and contract management, facilities, student and residential life, disability accommodations, student athletics, and regulatory agency compliance.

Government Compliance, Audits, and Investigations
Our attorneys advise public and private entities on best practices in corporate governance — with particular attention to the latest developments and trends affecting higher education — and counsel committees and boards on their responsibilities, including their fiduciary obligations under applicable state laws, as well as board and committee composition and practices, codes of conduct, and conflicts of interest. We assist institutions during audits and review policies and procedures to ensure compliance with all applicable laws, including:

  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
  • Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA)
  • Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA)
  • Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Individual State Privacy Laws
  • Data breach response and Privacy Impact Assessments
  • New York Executive Law
  • The Taylor Law
  • First Amendment issues
  • Title IX
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
  • New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP)
  • Other statutes and regulations pertaining to higher education
We also have significant experience defending colleges and guiding boards and administrators through internal and external observations, including everything from the Middle States accreditation process to harassment and discrimination investigations by the federal Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

With a team of attorneys that includes former general counsel to universities and a former college administrator, we know very well that damage to the reputation of a college or university can impact student recruitment and retention, alumni donations, and even federal funding for years after an incident. We help our clients limit or eliminate liability and minimize reputational exposures through various established and innovative insurance and risk management procedures, such as auditing for internal compliance.

  • Our team has successfully defended an institution in OCR investigations resulting in dismissal of separate complaints of discrimination brought by students based upon race, disability, and alleged failure to provide reasonable accommodations.
Information Management and Security
Cybersecurity is a leading emerging risk for professionals in every industry. The sheer volume of sensitive data that college and university administrators and staff store and access, however, puts institutions of higher education particularly at risk — from outside attackers, insiders with access, and accidents borne of poor procedure and failures of compliance.

Our attorneys combine knowledge of cybersecurity and liability with a thorough understanding of the laws and regulations that uniquely apply to colleges and universities, providing guidance on compliance with privacy laws including:

  • Electronic Communications Privacy Act
  • Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
  • FERPA
  • PPRA
  • COPPA
  • HIPAA
  • Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act
  • Individual State’s privacy and security statutes and regulations
Partnering with Goldberg Segalla means partnering with thought-leaders in cybersecurity and emerging data risks. We offer powerful and sensitive defense in the event of a catastrophic data breach or leak leading to litigation or investigation — but our “defense” starts much earlier, with counsel on drafting and implementing data storage and access protocol and response plans that can evolve ahead of new threats, laws, litigation trends, and crises. For example:

  • Data breach response on behalf of educational institutions, including coordinating with computer forensics to investigate the extent of the breach; analyzing individual notification and reporting requirements and handling all notice and reporting obligations.
  • Developing (or improving) incident response plans, including conducting table top exercises to help prepare institutions in the event of a data breach.
  • Analyzing data protection protocols in place for dealing with third-party vendors of various institutions; including developing data security and data privacy contract addendums to better protect institutions and shift potential liability to at-fault third parties.
Disability and Civil Rights
We draft and review policies and procedures concerning ADA, Title IX, and civil rights law compliance, and train college and university staff at all levels on responsibilities and best practices in these areas. Our attorneys are fully equipped and experienced to guide the provision of accommodations for faculty and students with disabilities and to ensure compliance with all anti-discrimination laws. We also have experience representing clients in administrative actions before regulatory and investigative bodies including:

  • U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights
  • U.S. Department of Justice
  • U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • New York State Division of Human Rights
  • New York City Commission on Civil Rights
We have also handled litigation before federal and New York State courts, and are well-equipped to handle appeals, drawing on the robust services of our Appellate Practice Group.

  • One of our attorneys, while in-house counsel to a community college, represented the institution in an an OCR investigation into a Title IX Equity in Athletics Complaint, drafting the response and coordinating presentation of data to OCR in defense of the complaint.
Employment Litigation and Administrative Hearings
Our attorneys defend institutions and administrators against employment-related matters such as employment discrimination, wage/hour issues, wrongful discharge matters, and constitutional claims. We regularly advise our clients in conflicts and litigation related to tenure, promotion, and termination of faculty and staff, with an unfailing sensitivity to the labor and employment concerns unique to the field of higher education. Our attorneys also provide proactive counsel and preventive policy development to avoid the cost and reputational damage of disputes before they can begin. We assist with all phases of the employment cycle, from drafting job descriptions through tenure and evaluation or termination, providing our clients with ongoing guidance on the evolution and interplay of complex labor laws, including the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, state workers’ compensation laws, military leave laws, New York Paid Family Leave, and other statutes.

  • One of our attorneys, while in-house counsel to a community college, successfully defended an arbitration in which the arbitrator upheld discipline rendered to a tenured faculty member and imposed a three-week suspension.
Labor, Collective Bargaining, and Unions
Our attorneys have considerable experience negotiating collective bargaining agreements between our clients and faculty and staff unions in both the public and private sectors. We advise clients regarding the interpretation and administration of collective bargaining agreements, represent employers in arbitration hearings, and appear on behalf of employers at all levels of the court system, as well as before the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Our attorneys have experience negotiating contracts with faculty and administrators as well as blue collar and white collar units.

  • While in-house counsel at a community college, one of our attorneys successfully moved to vacate a $700,000 arbitration award rendered in favor of a faculty union arising out a of a leap year payment dispute. We successfully argued on behalf of the college that the arbitration award was patently irrational.
Construction, Commercial Leasing, and Real Estate
The members of our Higher Education team work closely with attorneys in the firm's Construction and Real Estate Litigation Practice Groups to help our clients in higher education handle the unique construction, leasing, and real property projects and challenges that such institutions face. Our service begins with developing an understanding of each institution's short-term goals and long-term objectives, with an eye toward how the construction, acquisition, sale, and leasing of properties fits into each client's educational mission, strategic development initiatives, and budget. Our attorneys have helped colleges and universities monetize existing assets through leases of commercial real estate such as office space, parking lots, and radio and cell towers. We have also assisted clients in rezoning or securing variances for property; selling and acquiring property; and navigating estate proceedings for institutions named as beneficiaries of wills or trusts. In addition, our Higher Education attorneys have teamed up with members of our nationally renowned Construction practice to assist colleges and universities at every stage of construction projects, from project inception, planning, and financing, through completion.

A short list of the construction, leasing, and real estate services the Higher Education Practice Group can provide our clients includes:

  • Title and priority issue litigation concerning property line disputes, mechanic’s liens, easements, notices of pendency, and adverse possession claims
  • Real estate transfers under the Religious Corporations Law, membership agreements, partnerships, and not-for-profit corporations
  • Lobbying efforts to resolve issues with prior governmental properties
  • Coverage investigation, response, recoupment, and litigation
  • Survey and property description errors
  • Equity analysis surrounding mortgages, property liens, and subrogation
  • Property conveyance negligence actions
  • Representing institutional beneficiaries of real property bequests and donations
  • Zoning, rezoning, and variances
  • Tax certiorari proceedings
  • Litigation of lease disputes
Student and Residential Life
We assist colleges and universities with student life matters, beginning with drafting and revising policies, procedures, and student handbook language for areas including:

  • Campus judicial procedures
  • Human rights
  • ADA accommodations
  • Residential life issues
  • Auxiliary services corporations
  • Student clubs
  • Campus safety and security
  • Grievances
  • Sexual harassment and assault
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Computer use

In the event that a student life matter proceeds to an external investigation or to litigation, we are fully prepared to counsel and defend our clients with the utmost tact and discretion.

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  • 5.0/5.0 Review for Michael Rubin by a Partner on 05/28/15 in Civil Litigation

    Mike is an excellent attorney, a strong client advocate and worthy adversary.

    Mike is an excellent attorney, a strong client advocate and worthy adversary. Read less

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  • 5.0/5.0 Review for Marc W. Brown by a Judge on 08/13/13 in Appellate Practice

    Mr Brown served as a law clerk at the Appellate Division, Fourth Dept., one of New York's intermediate appellate courts while I was Presiding Justice of that Court. His work was outstanding.

    Mr Brown served as a law clerk at the Appellate Division, Fourth Dept., one of New York's intermediate appellate courts while I was Presiding Justice of that Court. His work was outstanding. Read less

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Diversity

Both within our own firm and across the wider business and legal communities, Goldberg Segalla’s commitment to diversity is strong, sincere, and a critical component of our firm’s mission and culture. Our philosophy has always been that we hire people who are excellent at what they do, and even better human beings. Period. We feel we would be doing a disservice to our firm and to our clients if we didn’t include contributions from every available resource.


We are extremely proud that our commitment has received regional and national recognition for the innovative programs we have developed and the results we have been able to achieve. The following is a sampling of the firm-wide or individual honors we have received for implementing initiatives that make a difference:


  • George B. Vashon Innovator Award, Minority Corporate Counsel Association
  • MCCA Firm Affiliate Network
  • Vault/MCCA Commitment to Diversity
  • Community Service Award, Defense Research Institute
  • Good Works Award, American Bar Association Section of Litigation
  • Outstanding Committee Chair, ABA Section of Litigation
  • Diversity Trailblazer Award, New York State Bar Association
  • Legal Service Award, Minority Bar Association of Western New York
  • Lawyer of the Year, Bar Association of Erie County
  • Legal Community Leader Award, National Federation for Just Communities of Western New York
  • Diversity Excellence Award, Buffalo Niagara Human Resource Association
  • Value Award for Diversity, Leadership Buffalo
  • Western New York Game Changers, Buffalo Spree magazine

What we are most proud of, though, is that our efforts have shown significant results and continue to make a lasting impact on the lives of many.

Leadership and Action

To put our philosophy and commitment into practice, we have a Diversity Task Force, which includes our managing partner, in place to conceptualize and implement diversity-focused programs as well as give diversity a voice in our decision-making at the highest level. The individuals on this task force share the firm’s strong commitment to increasing diversity, and they use their unique experiences and backgrounds to support and advance that goal. The team meets regularly to create programs, schedule events, establish diversity initiatives both inside and outside of the firm, set long-term goals, and develop the strategy to recruit and retain people from diverse backgrounds.


The chair of our Diversity Task Force, Joseph M. Hanna, has spearheaded numerous diversity initiatives in various organizations and outreach programs, serves on several diversity-related committees, and is a frequent author and speaker on diversity. Among other positions, he is co-chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) Young Lawyer Leadership Program, former chair of the association’s Minority Trial Lawyer Committee and its Special Committee on Human Rights, and former editor-in-chief of the ABA’s Minority Trial Lawyer; a 2014 fellow of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD); a past president of the Minority Bar Association of Western New York (MBAWNY) and the MBAWNY Foundation; and the Diversity Liaison for several committees at the 22,000-member DRI.


For more than a decade, Goldberg Segalla has proudly supported the ABA’s Judicial Internship Opportunity Program, which provides racial and ethnic minority law students, along with members of other groups underrepresented in the legal profession, opportunities to serve as an intern with a judge during the summer after their first or second year of law school. Joe Hanna — an alumni of the program himself — acts as a mentor and leader in the program, through which he has conducted more than 100 interviews for students across the country.

In 2017, Goldberg Segalla participated in the Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program, the New York City Bar Association’s flagship pipeline program for high school students. As a participating legal employer, we hosted high-achieving inner-city students for the summer and collaborate with the NYC Bar to provide them with additional programming before, during, and after the summer designed to help them prepare for a legal career.

Each summer, Goldberg Segalla proudly welcomes interns through a formal Diversity Clerkship Program that was conceived by Joe while he served as president of the MBAWNY. The program was developed in collaboration with the MBAWNY and the SUNY Buffalo Law School to provide opportunities for minority UB Law students to gain firsthand experience in the legal system. Since it was launched in 2011, the program has placed more than 100 students in clerkships in area courts as well as in several area law firms, with more judges and law firms asking to participate every day. It provides participants with an in-depth look at the legal process and the interaction between the bench and the bar that they would not otherwise get. At our firm, a dedicated team of partners monitors the work of these law clerks and ensures they obtain valuable experience to help develop important legal research, writing, case management, and client service skills critical to their long-term success. Our program earned the firm the Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s 2012 George B. Vashon Innovator Award.


We also have sponsored Success in the City, an annual diversity networking and mentoring event developed by Joe that brought together students, legal and business professionals, educators, nonprofits, and political leaders to make lasting partnerships. Many employment, business, and mentoring relationships resulted from this event. Past events have drawn more than 500 political and business leaders, legal professionals, and students. Success in the City has influenced the development of similar programs in Baltimore, Cleveland, Birmingham, Dallas, and elsewhere.


Our firm is committed to spreading the message throughout the broad legal and business communities that embracing diversity contributes to greater overall success. We conduct training sessions for in-house counsel at Fortune 500 corporations on increasing and promoting diversity. Our attorneys have authored articles and delivered presentations on diversity for various legal organizations, including DRI and the ABA, and our efforts and accomplishments in this area have been profiled in publications such as Law360, the New York State Bar Association’s State Bar News, Business First of Buffalo, the Buffalo Law Journal, and others.


In one example of our work to provide inspiration and raise awareness of diversity and women’s issues in the legal community, Caroline Berdzik, chair of our Employer and Labor Practice Group, spoke to Law360 for the publication’s “Female Powerbrokers” series. In the interview, Caroline discussed her career, the challenges of being a woman at a senior level at a law firm, the work-family life balance, and the importance of taking risks. She also offered guidance to female attorneys on moving their careers forward and advice to law firms on both increasing the number of women partners and retaining top female talent. Her longtime advocacy for women (at her previous firm, she served on the Women’s Business Development Committee and was a member of what became the national Women’s Presidents Organization) helped earn her a spot on the 2015 NJBIZ list of New Jersey’s Best 50 Women in Business.


Joe Hanna also was featured by Law360 in its “Minority Powerbrokers” series, in which he shared his perspective on breaking the glass ceiling in the legal industry, the challenges of being a lawyer of color at a senior level, how law firms can increase diversity in their partner ranks, and Goldberg Segalla’s core commitment to diversity.

Partnerships

Goldberg Segalla is proud to be a member of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association Firm Affiliate Network, which was created by the MCCA to assist and acknowledge law firms that are committed to advancing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.


We are also a member of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD), a national organization of leaders in law firms and corporate legal departments dedicated to creating a truly diverse legal profession. As noted earlier, Joe Hanna was a fellow of the LCLD in 2014. In this position, he played a critical role in organizing the first-ever New York City LCLD Fellows Roundtable event, and he was instrumental in establishing a mentorship program in Hartford for local diverse first-year law students.


We support the diversity efforts of numerous organizations, including:

  • American Bar Association
  • Asian American Bar Association of New York
  • Columbian Lawyers Association
  • Defense Research Institute
  • Federal Bar Association
  • Korean American Association of Greater New York
  • League of First Nations
  • Minority Bar Association of Western New York
  • National Bar Association
  • Native American Rights Fund
  • National Association of Asian American Professionals
  • National Congress of American Indians
  • New York State Bar Association
  • Seneca Free Trade Association
  • SUNY Buffalo Law School
  • Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York

Our outreach efforts led to the creation of a comprehensive database of more than 500 minority law organizations throughout the United States. Contact between these organizations takes place in anticipation of bringing CLE and legal programs together. This group of minority bar associations includes both local and national organizations, such as:

  • National Association of Women Lawyers
  • National Association of Muslim Lawyers
  • Hispanic National Bar Association
  • National Asian Pacific American Bar
  • Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles
  • South Asian Bar Association of Philadelphia
  • Vietnamese American Bar Association of North Carolina

A Talented and Diverse Team

Diversity is further evident within our firm through the many languages and dialects spoken by members of our team, including Albanian, Arabic, Croatian, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Malayalam, Mandarin, Marathi, Norwegian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Tamil, Thai, and Urdu.


Goldberg Segalla’s culture is one that values team-spiritedness, collegiality, and interpersonal harmony within our working community. We are a firm that believes in diversity in the workplace, and we are proud to offer a professional and positive work environment for each and every member of our team.


On these values, and on our commitment to diversity, we will never waver. We are proud of what we have accomplished thus far, but we also realize that this is a long-term mission. We will continue to innovate and to improve diversity in law and business — both within Goldberg Segalla and across the communities in which we live and work.

Diversity Matters — Join the Conversation

If you have questions regarding any of the firm’s diversity initiatives or would like to discuss ideas regarding increasing diversity in the legal profession, please contact Joe Hanna (716.566.5447; [email protected]) or another member of our Diversity Task Force:

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