Universities & Colleges

When your requirements for legal work move beyond your everyday scope, Cassels can handle even the most complex issues. We understand the role and importance of the various stakeholders and can provide strategic advice to help educational institutions manage reputational risk and achieve their academic priorities.

Cassels has represented Canada’s largest university for over 100 years and has acted for several other major universities and 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 across the firm, including in our Business Law; Construction; Litigation; Labour & Employment; Intellectual Property; Regulatory; Municipal, Planning & Environmental; Real Estate; Securities, Financial Services 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:


  • Providing advice and guidance on the application of Ontario’s Not-for-Profit Corporations Act and its relationship to the special legislation of post-secondary institutions
  • 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 post-secondary institutions to govern their affairs
  • Assisting institutions with the interpretation, application, adoption and amendment of special legislation

Financial Services

  • Providing advice on all aspects of the implementation of various types of secured and unsecured debt financing and project finance transactions, including those involving credit agreements, note indentures, debentures and other similar financial instruments
  • Structuring and negotiating asset finance and equipment leasing transactions and programs
  • Advising on a wide variety of green energy financings (including initiatives to reduce carbon emissions through building retrofits prioritizing energy efficiency, sustainability linked loans, renewal energy project financings and similar clean energy transition measures)
  • Advising post-secondary institutions on all aspects of reorganizations, restructurings and insolvencies, including practical advice on how to deal with the impacts of a contractual-counter party filing (or threatening to file) for creditor protection
  • Advising on directors’ and officers’ liabilities and responsibilities in the context of a reorganization or restructuring, as well as the environmental, labour and priority claims that may arise in such context

Human Rights, Labour & Employment

  • Labour relations advice and collective bargaining support, with a particular focus on academic labour relations
  • Advice in respect of all stages of human rights proceedings, with an emphasis on strategic advice in order to preclude proceedings from becoming contentious and/or reaching the level of the human rights tribunals or commissions
  • Providing representation in grievance arbitrations, wrongful dismissal, human rights, and sexual harassment matters
  • Advising on or conducting workplace investigations under the policies of post-secondary institutions
  • Drafting and negotiating senior and executive leadership employment agreements and packages

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
  • Copyright, trademarks, and patent issues
  • Information technology, including purchase and licensing of computer hardware and software and data security
  • Developing institutional policies for the protection, licensing, and enforcement of intellectual property rights
  • Conducting intellectual property audits
  • Representing educational institutions in copyright and trademark enforcement proceedings

Development & Construction

  • Development of campus master plans
  • Obtaining municipal approvals for large scale campus secondary plans and institutional development projects, including representation before the Ontario Land Tribunal
  • Advising with respect to the conservation and redevelopment of heritage properties
  • Preparation and review of all types of contracts and documentation related to construction, design, engineering, and the procurement of construction-related services
  • Construction dispute resolution with contractors, bonding companies, design professionals (including litigation, mediation, arbitration)

Public-Private Partnerships & Joint Venture Arrangements

  • Negotiation of affiliation agreements between institutions including teaching hospitals
  • Negotiation of development, project and joint-venture agreements regarding the construction, development, and operation of post-secondary facilities, including student housing, athletic and arts facilities, faculty buildings, research laboratories, and critical infrastructure


  • All aspects of procurement processes, including RFPs, RFIs, RFQs and other RFX events
  • Advising on the application of, and compliance with, the Broader Public Sector Procurement Directive
  • Service agreement negotiation, including food and beverage services

Real Estate Services & Residential Tenancies

  • Acquisitions and dispositions of property
  • Commercial leasing, including long-term ground leasing for academic facilities and student housing
  • Residential and commercial tenancy disputes
  • Expropriation proceedings
  • Advice and guidance in the development of comprehensive real estate acquisition strategies
  • Advice regarding housing co-operatives
  • Advice regarding student residence and other student housing arrangements, including advice regarding the applicability of tenancy statutes, such as the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006
  • Appearances before landlord and tenancy tribunals, including the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board

Representative Work

  • Acting for post-secondary institutions across Ontario in the procurement and negotiation of agreements for public-private sector delivery of student residences and other academic facilities
  • Acting for the University of Toronto in connection with Project LEAP, a $138 million infrastructure project to decarbonize the St. George Campus, the largest sustainability effort in the higher education sector, financed primarily by separate syndicated loans provided by Canada Infrastructure Bank and Royal Bank of Canada
  • Obtaining approval before the City of Toronto and the Ontario Land Tribunal for the University of Toronto St. George Secondary Plan
  • Negotiating project agreements and obtaining approval for numerous large-scale facilities in support of the Pan Am Parapan Games, including the development of the Pan Am/Parapan Aquatics Facility on lands jointly owned by the University of Toronto and the City of Toronto
  • Acting for a university developing and negotiating agreements for the multi-party funding, development, and construction of Canada Games Park in the Niagara Region
  • Acting for a university in obtaining approvals for academic field research facilities in the Oak Ridges Moraine
  • Acting for universities across southern Ontario in the negotiation of municipal agreements for municipal transit expansion within campus lands
  • 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
  • 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
  • Advising a university on the alleged violation of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) by OneClass, a third-party tutoring service, leading to a substantial administrative monetary payment and the implementation of a compliance program under a consent agreement with the CRTC
  • Advising several university libraries on controlled digital lending strategies to maintain student access to materials in their collections throughout the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Advising on the development and implementation of guidelines for the use of copyright-protected material in teaching, research, and campus recreational activities
  • Advising a university on the intellectual property implications of a major artificial intelligence research project
  • Representing a university in disputes involving the alleged unauthorized use of photographs and other visual materials in teaching materials
  • Successfully opposing a motion to certify a class action against a university
  • Successfully representing a university before the Ontario 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 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, including participation in drafting the directives, providing ongoing advice to members of the commission, assisting with the hearings, and appearing in court
  • Successfully defending 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
  • 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