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Profile: Homecoming King
COOPER SHATTUCK has gone to the head of the class at The University of Alabama System, which has picked him to be its new general counsel.
"It's a homecoming in more ways than oneto my family and to the city where my legal career started," says Shattuck.
In returning to his alma mater, he simultaneously erases a lengthy daily commute. Shattuck is a longtime resident of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the home base of the university system and the city where he and his wife raised their four daughters.
Shattuck was the top legal adviser to Governor Robert Bentley of Alabama before the university gave him its top legal honors. His prior job was based in the state capital, Montgomery, about two hours' drive from his home.
The transition from government to university has been seamless and gradual. Both employers have been flexible, the work required for the two jobs has proved complementary, and Shattuck has the opportunity to deal with a broad range of issues, which keeps things interesting.
In his government role, Shattuck represented the state in its handling of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010, a task he continues to handle during his transition. His duties have included filing a claim against the oil company BP plc on behalf of the state. "Part of the deal with me coming here was that I would be able to continue that," Shattuck says.
The two entities have some similarities, which also helps with the transition, Shattuck says. Their operating budgets are similarly sized, and the university is the state's third-largest employer.
Both jobs also involve some high-profile problems. For the governor, Shattuck handled natural disasters and other controversial matters. The university has recently faced a horror of a very different kind. In 2010 Huntsville campus professor Amy Bishop murdered three of her colleagues. (She was sentenced to life in prison without parole in late September.) "You just never know what you're going to be faced with in a public institution," Shattuck says.
Before joining the governor's legal team in January 2011, Shattuck was a shareholder at the Tuscaloosa firm Rosen Harwood. His workload there included construction and bonds, civil litigation, alternative disputes and mediation, plaintiffs and defense litigation, labor and employment, and general corporate law. Shattuck has also taught courses at the University of Alabama over the past eight years. He graduated from the university's law school in 1990 after earning a bachelor's degree in economics from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1987.
Shattuck says he is humbled by his good fortune in the law. "I was lucky to have worked in the largest law firm in Tuscaloosa, and I didn't get pigeonholed in any way, with any client, industry, or practice," he says. "As my client bases or interests have changed, I was able to get wide exposure. I enjoyed opportunities you wouldn't think a lawyer from Tuscaloosa would get."