Colleges & Universities

Higher education and research involves a broad range of issues and opportunities governed and funded by a complex array of federal, state, and local agencies, private individuals and foundations and other entities. Van Ness Feldman clients include both public and private colleges and universities, which the firm advises on complex legal, regulatory and policy matters. Such matters are often at the intersection of federal policy and funding, public-private partnerships, strategic real estate and campus planning, environmental regulation and compliance, and energy infrastructure.

The firm is well-known for bringing a unique perspective and creative, collaborative approach to solving the legal and policy challenges institutions confront in managing day-to-day operations efficiently and economically, while planning for the future.



Van Ness Feldman works extensively in the energy services contracting field and represents institutions in all aspects of negotiating and partnering with the energy efficiency supply sector. VNF assists clients in attaining sustainability goals and achieving cost efficiencies by reducing electricity consumption during peak periods, by accessing efficient services that help meet sustainability goals, and by utilizing renewable energy sources. The firm's professionals regularly guide clients in navigating a variety of projects and initiatives, including:

Combined Heat and Power.  VNF assists clients in identifying and developing opportunities for the capture of waste heat and steam from existing industrial processes, resulting in substantial cost savings; in combining heat and power plant operations to meet and exceed air regulations and permitting requirements; and in reducing greenhouse gas production and emission.

Micro Grids.  VNF assists clients establishing self-contained grids that are separate from existing utility providers.

On-Site Generation, Waste to Energy, and Interconnection.  VNF assists clients to utilize combined heat and power, establish microgrids and otherwise establish cogeneration facilities to achieve improved efficiencies, manage fuel, and maximize renewable sources and security. VNF then assists clients in selling excess electric generation to the electric grid, resulting in a source of revenue for the client.

District Energy.  Many institutions have steam or chilled water plants that need upgrades, have complicated relationships with incumbent utilities, and need legal services. VNF counsels clients in this area.


The firm advises institutions in a wide range of regulatory navigation, from compliance and permitting to administrative proceedings.

Air Regulation.  Van Ness Feldman advises institutions in all aspects of combined heat and power plant operations and applicable air regulations and permitting requirements.

E-Waste Disposal.  VNF guides colleges and universities in addressing the issues inherent in the disposal (collection, handling, transport and liability) of electronic products containing hazardous substances not previously covered under residential waste management regulations or processing requirements.

Pharmaceutical, Laboratory, and Hazardous Waste Management and Disposal. Van Ness Feldman assists institutions in obtaining the necessary permits and other regulatory or vendor requirements (ranging from disposal operators to insurers) to ensure compliant pharmaceutical and hazardous waste cleanup and disposal.


Van Ness Feldman represents colleges and universities in real estate transactions, planning, expansion, and other areas involving real property. The firm's attorneys and land use planners are especially adept in guiding clients in the following types of representations:

Real Estate and Strategic Asset Management.  VNF represents college and university clients in real estate transactions, real estate assembly, historic preservation, and leasing, in transactions that range from simple to complex, including street vacations and railway vacations, and multiple owners and contaminated properties.

Planning.  Van Ness Feldman works with campus architects, planners, and consultants on campus master planning, environmental review, and in all aspects of planning, community outreach, and permitting for full utilization of existing and new facilities.

Disposition of Donated Property. VNF works with development offices and real estate offices on the real estate aspects of donated property or potential donations, including the use, sale, or conservation of such property.


VNF works with clients to develop strategic public-private partnerships, identify and secure federal funding sources, and implement other funding strategies. It assists clients in audits of institutional assets as well as policy and legal needs, as well as in building strategic partnerships and coalitions.
Partnership Development.  Partnering with colleges and universities has become a key element in corporate efforts to secure federal funds at DOE/DOD. VNF’s experience with federal agencies gives it insight and access to critical information regarding funding sources and application processes.

Strategic Planning for Seeking Federal Funding.  VNF has a proven record of clients securing federal funds and maintains a website to assist clients in identifying potential funding sources.

Audits.  VNF uses its expertise to identify potential projects or facilities that would be vulnerable either to regulation, legal challenge and/or have the potential for receiving federal funding or public-private partnering.

Utilizing Existing Legal Authorities.  VNF provides important benefits to clients in the context of current Congressional gridlock by using its knowledge of existing policies to access appropriated funds, notwithstanding the inability to obtain Congressionally directed funds.

Public Private Partnerships and Collaborations.  VNF assists in strategic planning and drafting agreements to form and govern joint powers authorities, public-private collaborations, and other development entities. In addition, VNF has special expertise in immigration matters and can advise institutions in this area.

Coalition Building and Management.  VNF has significant experience in building and managing a variety of industry and non-profit coalitions that advocate before the Executive Branch, Congress, and various Federal Agencies for legislative and regulatory solutions to problems that impact coalition members.

Research and Policy Development.  VNF assists colleges and universities in developing research goals and policies by providing regulatory analysis and support for research programs.

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Brent Carson



206.802.3831 / vCard

Shelley N. Fidler

Principal, Governmental Affairs, Energy and Environmental Policy

Washington D.C.

202.298.1905 / vCard

Ray Liaw



206.623.9372 / vCard

Tracy Nagelbush Tolk

Principal, Governmental Issues

Washington D.C.

202.298.1937 / vCard

Terese (T.C.) Richmond



206.623.9372 / vCard

Susan A. Shyne



206.623.9372 / vCard

David P. Yaffe

Senior Counsel

Washington D.C.

202.298.1840 / vCard