John T. Graff

John Graff is a trial attorney specializing in complex business litigation and representation and counseling of federally-funded colleges and universities.


John T. Graff is a nationally recognized higher education attorney with extensive experience advising colleges and universities on matters unique to higher education, including Title IX compliance, investigations and litigation; advice and audit representation in United States Department of Education Clery Act compliance reviews; and all matters related to student affairs operations. John also provides logistical consulting to campus law enforcement agencies throughout the country concerning all aspects of police operations.

John is one of very few attorneys throughout the country to ever lead an operational team responsible for handling conversion of a contract campus security unit into a fully sworn and armed campus police department. He has served as transaction counsel on a $20 million police department merger deal, and has led operations teams charged with developing a municipal police precinct on a higher education campus. John frequently collaborates with clients on development of active shooter response policies and trainings. In July 2016, John served as a tactical operations evaluator for a joint campus law enforcement training designed to enhance law enforcement response capabilities during incidents involving multiple shooters in large event venues.

He frequently collaborates with higher education industry trade organizations and clients throughout the country to provide Clery Act, Title IX, and campus law enforcement policy development. In addition, John provides counsel and training to college and university attorneys, administrators, and police officers. In 2014, John’s work on Clery and Title IX matters earned him the honor of being selected to serve on an advisory committee to two delegates from the National Association of College and University Attorneys participating in the federal negotiated rule making process concerning the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (2013) (“VAWA”) regulations. Following publication of the VAWA regulations, John served on a committee advising those same delegates regarding updates to the United States Department of Education’s Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting (2016 Edition).

In 2019. John started HRW’s Higher Ground podcast – the only podcast focusing solely on legal issues in higher education. Episodes are available on both iTunes and Spotify.

Bar Admissions

  • Massachusetts, 2005
  • United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, 2006


  • Suffolk University Law School, J.D., 2005
  • Boston University, B.A., 1997


Prior to practicing law and providing private consulting, John was a police officer at Boston University where he worked in various units and was decorated for his service. He is a 1998 graduate of the six-month long 29th Municipal Police Officer Class of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Municipal Police Training Committee Academy, was later certified by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in sexual assault investigation, received training in forensic profiling of serial sexual criminals provided by the Massachusetts State Police in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP), was a member of a community policing unit, routinely worked anti-crime (plain clothes) details, and served a rotation in the detective unit.

During law school, John served as an intern in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office where he served in the Family Violence Unit, focusing his work on assisting district attorneys preparing cases for indictment and trial where charges involved sexual assault against adults and minors, and domestic violence between relationship partners or family members.

From 2000 to 2006, John served as the Assistant Director of Boston University’s Office of Judicial Affairs where he conducted numerous sexual assault, sexual harassment, and domestic violence investigations; contributed to enhancement of investigation techniques and procedure; and assisted the university’s crisis management team.

From December 2009 through August 2010, John served as interim associate general counsel at Emerson College in Boston, and he served three terms as a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of College and University Law.

Publications & Appearances

  • Presenter, “The Clery Act: Keys to Navigating the Compliance Landscape,” May 2020, Georgia Independent College Association
  • Presenter, “The Role of Campus Police Departments, Including Relationships with In-House Counsel and the Community,” February 2020, Boston Bar Association
  • Presenter, “Preserving the Peace: Legal Issues Associated with Campus Law Enforcement,” December 2019, NACUA
  • Co-presenter, “Use of Force by Campus Police, University Risk Managers and Insurance Association”, Annual Conference, September 2017
  • Co-presenter, “Walking the Tightrope:  How to Balance the Rights of the Accuser and Accused During an Investigation,” Title IX ExecuSummit, Annual Conference, July 2017
  • Co-presenter, Title IX and Clery:  “How to Do More with Less, National Association of College and University Attorneys,” Annual Conference, June 2017
  • Presenter, “Campus Safety & Active Shooter Education,” March 2017 AICUM Spring Symposium
  • Co-presenter, Use of Force by Campus Police: Risk Management Lessons,” March 2017 United Educators, Virtual Seminar
  • Co-presenter, “Campus Law Enforcement in 2017,” January 2017 National Association of College and University Attorneys, Virtual Seminar
  • Peer Reviewer, “The 2016 Clery Handbook:  New Developments and Important Changes, University Risk Management and Insurance Association, Government and Regulatory Affairs Blast,” July 2016
  • Co-presenter, “Law Enforcement on Campus:  Key Issues in Campus Security,” June 2016 NACUA Annual Conference
  • Co-presenter, “Things That Go Bump in the Night:  Litigation and Hearing Panel Basics,” January 2016 NACUA, Sexual Misconduct Continuing Legal Education Workshop
  • Co-presenter, “Introduction to the Clery Act,” June 2015 NACUA Annual Conference
  • Panelist, “A Primer in Sexual Violence Training / Programming Panel,” June 2015 NACUA
  • Co-author, “Core Principals for Educating Campus Law Enforcement in the Handling of Sexual Violence Investigations under Title IX,” June 2015 NACUA
  • Co-author, “Identifying and Training Responsible Employees – Training on the Front Lines,” June 2015, NACUA
  • Co-presenter, “The Fundamentals of Clery Act Compliance for Campus Counsel and Administrators,” National Association of College and University Attorneys, Seven-Week Online Course, Summer 2015
  • Contributor, “Policy and Programming Changes to the Campus SaVE Provisions of the Violence Against Women Act,” July 2014 Office of the General Counsel, State University of New York
  • Presenter, “Clery Act Overview,” June 2014 NACUA Annual Conference
  • Co-presenter, “An Insider’s Guide to the Violence Against Women Act Negotiated Rulemaking:  Implementing Changes to the Clery Act,” June 2014 NACUA Annual Conference
  • Author, “An Insider’s Guide to the Violence Against Women Act Negotiated Rulemaking:  Implementing Changes to the Clery Act,” June 2014 NACUA
  • Co-presenter, “The Fundamentals of Clery Act Compliance for Campus Counsel and Administrators,” Summer 2014 NACUA Seven-Week Online Course,
  • Co-presenter, “The Fundamentals of Clery Act Compliance for Campus Counsel and Administrators,” Summer 2013 NACUA Seven-Week Online Course,
  • Co-presenter, “Clery Act Compliance in 2013: Traps for the Unwary in Department of Education Clery Act Audits,” December 2012 National Association of Student Personnel Administrators Annual Conference,
  • Presenter, “The Clery Act: Current Compliance and Enforcement Issues,” September 2012 National Association of College and University Attorneys in cooperation with the American Council on Education, Virtual Seminar,
  • Co-presenter, “Surviving a DOE Clery Audit: Advice From Those Who Have Been There,” June 2012 NACUA Annual Conference

Representative Matters

  • Served as public relations advisor to college president during media crisis related to college handling of Title IX complaints against faculty
  • Advised disability services office concerning student request for housing accommodations
  • Advised dean of students and academic department chair concerning cross-complaints by faculty member and student regarding student’s alleged sexual harassment of faculty and faculty member’s failure to follow written disciplinary procedures
  • Regularly advised college departments concerning data privacy obligations under Family Educational Rights and Privacy (FERPA)
  • Advised financial aid administrators concerning strategy for handling inadvertent disclosure of student loan information
  • Led transaction counsel in online tuition payment platform deal, including extensive counsel to college on related federal and state in-truth lending regulations
  • Regularly provided compliance related advice and audit services to institutions aimed at identifying system weaknesses
  • Defended university in federal and state age discrimination and retaliation claims
  • Obtained judgement on dismissal on behalf of college in claim for wrongful death against campus police officers
  • Successfully challenged third-party discovery sought from college as precursor to a defendant’s effort to implead college as a third-party defendant in a wrongful death litigation
  • Defended university hospital in multiple discrimination and wrongful termination suits
  • Conducted internal investigation concerning university hospital nurse’s administration of incorrect cancer treatment to two patients
  • Conducted internal investigation concerning university hospital employee’s breach of confidential patient files


  • Member, National Association of College and University Attorneys
  • Member, Boston Bar Association, College and University Section
  • Member, Massachusetts Bar Association
  • Member, American Bar Association


  • Recognized in Best Lawyers in America, 2018-present
  • Named 2015 Up and Coming Lawyer by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly
  • Named a Massachusetts Rising Star by Super Lawyers, 2008-2012, 2015

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