Purdue University Hires First In-House Counsel
Purdue University has appointed Steven Schultz as its first in-house legal counsel, effective February 1. As manager of Purdues legal function, Schultz will advise Purdue president Mitch Daniels and the Board of Trustees on a range of legal issues, and hell oversee the provision of external legal services.
For more than 130 years, Lafayette, Indiana, firm Stuart & Branigin has served as the neighboring universitys primary legal counsel. In a statement provided to CorpCounsel.com, partners at the firm expressed support for Purdues decision to change its practices.
In a memo sent to faculty and staff Monday, Daniels said that the adoption of an internal legal counsel model is now the general rule among major U.S. universities. Purdue had been the last of the Big Ten schools to rely exclusively on outside legal representation.
In a press release, Daniels said that by hiring internal counsel, Purdue expects to identify opportunities to improve the way we procure and manage legal services and thereby realize certain risk-management, oversight, and cost-savings benefits.
The change comes at a time when university faculty are expressing frustration with the status quo. At a meeting of the Purdue University Senate Monday, faculty members addressed their concerns with recent legal bills.
According to Purdue spokesman Chris Sigurdson, the university has made $6.8 million in payments to Stuart & Branigin over the last three fiscal years. Fees were split roughly evenly among those years: $2.4 million in 2010, $2.1 million in 2011, and $2.3 million in 2012 .
In an email to CorpCounsel.com, Sigurdson said that specific cases or legal matters were not addressed during the faculty meeting and that the discussion was limited to legal bills incurred over the last 18 months.
University Senate chair J. Paul Robinson said in an email to CorpCounsel.com that the faculty has become concerned about what appears to them to be runaway legal expenses.
Robinson says there hasnt been sufficient oversight and incentive to resolve legal issues reasonably without jumping directly to litigation. He anticipates the installation of an internal lawyer will cut down on unnecessary use of outside counsel. The faculty see central management and review as a welcome process, he says.
Schultz says that bringing oversight of the legal function a little closer to the internal decision-making process was a goal of hiring in-house counsel, adding that cost controls were a perceived benefit of making the change.
The new in-house counsel is taking the position at Purdue after concluding a stint as VP and first-ever general counsel of Southeastern Indiana Health Organization, and a seven-month appointment as special adviser to the State of Indiana on the Ohio River Bridges Project. He was previously executive director of the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority.
Schultz earned his bachelors degree from Butler University in 1988, majoring in history and political science. He has a J.D. from Yale Law School and an LL.M. from the University of Cambridge.
After graduation, he practiced corporate law at Barnes & Thornburg in Indianapolis and worked in the London office of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Jacobson, where he specialized in cross-border mergers and acquisitions, private equity transactions, and capital markets financings.
Schultz joined Irwin Financial Corporation in 2001 and became general counsel in 2004. Schultz served as then-governor Danielss first chief legal counsel from 2005-2006, before returning to Irwin.
Schultz plans to meet with partners at Stuart & Branigin on his first day on the job at Purdue to discuss how to proceed with their partnership. He says hell have a better sense of which matters will be farmed out once he starts. Im going to be laser-focused on identifying those, says Schultz, adding that he feels fortunate that the firm will still be available to help evaluate legal risks and necessary controls.
Thomas Parent, a partner with Stuart & Branigin, said, This change has been under discussion for a long time, and we have been actively engaged with Purdues Board of Trustees in evaluating various models for the provision of legal services to the university. He added that the firm would remain dedicated to advancing the schools mission.
Purdues first in-house lawyer looks forward to helping the school navigate what he anticipates will be great changes on the horizon in the field of higher education law.
Schultz, a life-long Hoosier, says he was honored that he was offered the position at Purdue. Its a world-class institution, he says, renowned for its reputation, research and educational rigor, and the high caliber of its people.
Schultzs father was a student athlete at Purdue, and at least a dozen other members of his family attended school there. I always rooted for the Boilers, he says. Ive recently been joking to the Purdue folks that although I became a naturalized citizen of the Butler nation, I was born a Boilermaker.