University Assistant GC Position

(Discuss Advantages vs Disadvantages, Making the Switch From Private Practice to In-House, Compensation & Hours, Work-Life balance, In-House Reviews & Experiences)
bld2414

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University Assistant GC Position

Post by bld2414 » Sun Feb 09, 2020 11:50 am

Does anyone have experience/intel on in-house positions at universities? I’ve got an inside track on an associate GC position at a mid major type school in a tertiary market. I expect pay will not be awe inspiring, but probably still a pretty good, steady job. Any thoughts are appreciated.

bld2414

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Re: University Assistant GC Position

Post by bld2414 » Wed Mar 04, 2020 6:07 pm

Bump

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tlsadmin3

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Re: University Assistant GC Position

Post by tlsadmin3 » Wed Mar 04, 2020 6:14 pm

I don't have any experience with working as a GC at a university, but I do know that the work/life balance is a lot better its a lot more 9-5. If you are have questions about working as a GC at a university I would maybe find some university GC's near you and ask them what they think.

decimalsanddollars

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Re: University Assistant GC Position

Post by decimalsanddollars » Wed Mar 04, 2020 6:26 pm

Generally a cushy job if you can get it, but it's an exit from biglaw that you may have a hard time reversing (I've never heard of a firm hiring someone from a university GC's office). Pay will be similar to local government work

Wubbles

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Re: University Assistant GC Position

Post by Wubbles » Thu Mar 05, 2020 2:37 am

I know a GC at a small college and he seems to love his job. Don't much about specifics, but as far as the above comment about going back to biglaw, I believe the person I know could transition into a role at his outside counsel firm that has a sizeable education practice group (think firms like Cozen O'connor, Barnes and Thornburg, Husch Blackwell).

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Re: University Assistant GC Position

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Mar 17, 2020 2:47 pm

These positions are generally great.

The general hierarchy is:
Assistant General Counsel
Associate General Counsel
Senior Associate General Counsel (many places do not have this position)
Deputy General Counsel (many places to not have this position)
General Counsel

The hours: Mostly 9-5

Extra perks: tuition remission/reimbursement (great for picking up an MBA, or a MEd). Retirement contributions. Possibly state pension. University holidays. Generally good vacation packages.

Compensation: It's over the place, but here is a run down:
Assistant General Counsel ($60k-$130k)
Associate General Counsel ($100k-$180k)
Senior Associate General Counsel ($160k-$220k)
Deputy General Counsel ($200k-$300k)
General Counsel ($200-$300k at top LACs/top regional schools)($500k-$800k at top universities)

Opportunity for advancement: Unfortunately, Associate General Counsel is the end of the line for most people. University OGCs are pyramids with huge bases and very small top levels. Everyone will make Associate GC if they don't get fired for malpractice, but you need a lot of luck after that. Senior associate general counsel positions are quite rare (probably 25-33% of universities have them and only one or two most of the time) and if a university has a deputy general counsel position (probably 50% don't) there is usually only one of them. It goes without saying, GC positions that you'd reasonably want are quite rare (maybe 200 in the country, all with very low turnover). This small top layer of the pyramid makes getting a GC position quite tough, because you're competing with (1) so many other people who have chilled at "associate general counsel" rank for quite awhile and (2) very accomplished external highers that want to cap off their career being the GC for their alma mater. A lot of times, for the big jobs, big law partners, GCs/AGCs of non-education corporations, or highly-accomplished government lawyers will win out. That can feel pretty shitty too see someone swoop in with next to 0 higher ed experience when some applicants have 20yrs+ in university OGCs, but that's life.

I maintain a document with what all the former GCs of most top universities and LACs (though many LACs don't have OGCs) did before becoming GC. Here are the top 10 university GCs from my slightly dated list now with their (former position), law school alma mater:

1. Princeton (USDA Chief Legal Officer), HLS
2. Harvard (AUSA, Univ. AGC), UVA
3. Yale (Partner (Higher Ed - Hogan)), YLS
4. Chicago (Partner (M&A - Kirkland), UC-Hastings
5. Columbia (Chief Civil AUSA, Univ. AGC)
6. Stanford (Partner (Lit - Pillsbury Winthrop)), Stanford
7. MIT (Univ. AGC), Cornell
8. Duke (Florida GC), Florida
9. Penn (AUSA, Big Law Associate), Penn
10. Johns Hopkins, (Chief of Staff/Special Ass. State's Attorney), HLS

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Re: University Assistant GC Position

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Mar 17, 2020 3:45 pm

What skills do these positions look for? Generally are transactional attorneys preferred over litigators or vice versa?

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beepboopbeep

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Re: University Assistant GC Position

Post by beepboopbeep » Tue Mar 17, 2020 3:56 pm

I'm not one, but have worked with them -- at least in my contacts, it's almost exclusively L&E practitioners at the lower rungs. Title IX, VAWA, Clery Act reporting, etc. seems to be a huge part of University gc office responsibilities. I would guess there's also some patent/IP counsel for big systems like UC. Someone like the above anon probably has a broader view and I'd defer to their answer.

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Re: University Assistant GC Position

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Mar 20, 2020 2:31 am

beepboopbeep wrote:I'm not one, but have worked with them -- at least in my contacts, it's almost exclusively L&E practitioners at the lower rungs. Title IX, VAWA, Clery Act reporting, etc. seems to be a huge part of University gc office responsibilities. I would guess there's also some patent/IP counsel for big systems like UC. Someone like the above anon probably has a broader view and I'd defer to their answer.
Anon from above.

At the base level, a GC's office normally has exclusively litigators, most of which are doing L&E work. They will also get experience in student affairs, athletics, freedom of speech (if a public university), and other "higher ed" issues. The rare "deals" are farmed out to a local/regional firm.

As the office grows, specialists are brought on board. A university GC's office is most likely to bring on a real estate attorney first. If there is significant research output, a patent/IP attorney will be brought in too. The patent/IP attorney will likely get allocated the research compliance work too if the former general L&E litigator isn't too attached. If the university has a hospital, there is bound to be a healthcare advisory attorney. Sometimes the healthcare attorney and not the patent/IP attorney will get reallocated the research compliance work. If the university has a very large endowment, there will likely be a corporate attorney who sits in the GC's office or is embedded in the investment team's office. Some offices will bring in a tax or benefits attorney, but it's pretty rare.

Beyond just sending out an application, the best thing you can do if you're at a firm is to get on matters with university clients. I know the GC at Chicago came over as a partner after advising the university on a transaction. These stories are commonplace. If you can't do that, then contact attorneys at university OGC and ask to chat on the phone/get coffee. Ask about their careers and make it known to them that you're looking to transition away from your current role. When a position pops up in your niche, you might become the immediate front runner despite the OGC really not having learned much about you. Interest and enthusiasm counts. If you see a posting for an Associate General Counsel and you don't quite meet the years of experience, contact the OGC and say that the position really interests you and that you'd be willing to take the reduced rank of Assistant General Counsel and its respective salary if they'd consider your application. I recommend this for situations where you know the university e.g. normally asks for 4 years of experience for Assistant General Counsels and 8 years for Associate General Counsels (aka there is a decent enough years of experience gap), and you happen to have 6 or 7. It's worth asking for, because if it's a niche role then the university might not hire again in that role for a decade (people generally stick around in university GC offices.

Some other misc. notes:

If you're choosing a law school now, some universities hire their graduates as law fellows. Off the top of my head, I know Indiana (3yr term), Ohio State, Vanderbilt, and Yale have all done so in the past. Some universities (e.g. Vanderbilt) make it very clear that these are term positions. Others (e.g. Ohio State) occasionally transition their fellows to Assistant General Counsels.

There are universities with 30k students that have five attorneys. There are universities with 20k students that have twelve attorneys. It's somewhat random.

Not all universities pay the same. Some huge the low end of my scales like motherfuckers. Others hug the high end like mother appreciators.

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