Universities & Colleges

We provide strategic advice to help educational institutions manage reputational risk and achieve their academic priorities. When your requirements for legal work move beyond your everyday scope, our team can handle even the most complex issues.

Cassels has represented Canada’s largest university for over 70 years and has acted for several other major universities and community colleges throughout the country and across the border. Our lawyers also have experience acting for school boards, private schools, an education commission, and a ministry of education. In representing our clients in the education field, we have gained a great deal of in-depth knowledge of not only how those institutions operate, but also how to best approach the unique issues which they often face.

To meet our clients’ diverse legal needs, we draw on the expertise of our lawyers in our Business Law, Construction, Litigation, Labour & Employment, Municipal, Planning & Environmental, Real Estate, Securities and Tax Groups. In representing our clients’ interests, we have appeared on their behalf before various administrative tribunals and at all levels of provincial and federal courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada.

Our Services

We represent our education clients in a number of specialized areas including:


  • Negotiation, enforcement and interpretation of contracts including research contracts and donation agreements
  • Reorganizations, amalgamations, affiliations and asset transfers
  • Governance issues and policy development, including drafting the constating documents and policies to be used and relied upon by universities to govern their affairs

Intellectual Property & Information Technology

  • Technology transfer and commercialization
  • Distance learning and “Massively Open Online Courses” (MOOC) consortia agreements
  • Specialty service agreements for satellite launches and aerospace projects
  • Supercomputer acquisitions
  • Intellectual property, including copyright, trade-marks and patent issues
  • Information technology, including purchase and licensing of computer hardware and software and data security

Human Rights & Employment

  • Executive employment agreements and packages
  • Labour relations, employment standards, wrongful dismissal, human rights and sexual harassment matters
  • Advice in respect of all stages of human rights proceedings, with an emphasis on strategic advice in order preclude proceedings from becoming contentious and/or reaching the level of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario

Construction & Development

  • Acquisitions and disposition of property
  • Development approvals
  • Financing all aspects of development and construction
  • Preparation of all types of construction contracts
  • Construction dispute resolution
  • Review and preparation of construction procurement documentation

Public-Private Partnerships

  • Relations with affiliated institutions including teaching hospitals
  • Development agreements regarding the construction and development of university facilities including student housing


  • All aspects of procurement processes, including RFPs, RFIs, RFQs and other RFX events
  • Service agreement negotiation, including food and beverage services

Real Estate Services

  • Commercial leasing, including long-term ground leading for academic facilities and student housing
  • Residential and commercial tenancy disputes
  • Expropriation Proceedings
  • Advice regarding housing co-operatives
  • Advice regarding student residence and other student housing arrangements, including advice regarding the applicability of the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006
  • Appearances before the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board

Examples of our work in the area include

  • Obtaining approval for large scale, institutional and public facilities across the City of Toronto, including the development of the Pan Am/Parapan Aquatics Facility on lands jointly owned by the University of Toronto and the City of Toronto
  • Advising post-secondary institutions on the development and approval of campus master plans
  • Advising institutions with respect to the conservation and redevelopment of heritage properties, including the negotiation of heritage easement agreements and appeals to the Conservation Review Board
  • Obtaining approvals for academic field research facilities in the Oak Ridges Moraine
  • Acting for universities or the underwriters in raising hundreds of millions of dollars through debt financings for the universities
  • Acting on behalf of a group of underwriters in connection with a refinancing of the debt of a school board trust
  • Representing universities in Charter challenges, including a challenge to mandatory retirement (McKinney v. University of Guelph, [1990] 3 S.C.R. 299) and to interning requirements for medical practice in Ontario (Jamorski v. Ontario (A.G.) (1987) 59 O.R. (2nd) 422)
  • Obtaining a Mareva injunction on behalf of a university that prevented an employee who had defrauded the university from disposing of assets pending a trial of the action
  • Successfully opposing a motion to certify a class action against a university
  • Successfully representing a university in the Court of Appeal on an application to terminate the tenancy of a student who had transferred occupancy of a unit without the university’s consent
  • Providing construction advice to school boards and universities in their build programs
  • Construction dispute resolution with contractors, bonding companies, design professionals (including litigation, mediation, arbitration)
  • Providing construction project advice to universities
  • Providing advice to a provincial education commission, which oversaw the transfer of assets and liabilities and the transfer of employees from the old to the new school boards. This included participation in drafting the directives, providing ongoing advice to members of the commission, assisting with the hearings, and appearing in court
  • Successfully defended a university in several precedent-setting court cases upholding the integrity and independence of the university’s academic programs and internal procedures
  • Successfully obtained an injunction on behalf of a university which prevented the unfair exclusion of its track team from the provincial finals
  • Long term lead counsel for universities in human rights matters, acting on hundreds of cases at all stages of the human rights complaint process
  • Acting for the University of Toronto on the construction of the SCI NET HPC Computing Centre and associated supercomputer acquisition and software licensing
  • Acting for the University of Toronto in respect of the University’s participation in the “Coursera” MOOC