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Profile: Managing Up
It may sound like a big jump from an in-house job at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to the general counsel position at Vanderbilt University, but AUDREY ANDERSON sees a surprising degree of overlap between the two. In both law departments, lawyers have an opportunity to get united behind a mission, says Anderson, something thats broader than just the bottom line for shareholders. After three-and-a-half years as deputy GC for the federal agency, she took over as the Nashville schools top lawyer in early March.
Before joining DHS, Anderson spent 17 years as a litigator at Washington, D.C.based firm Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells). She honed her skills at the firm, but says it was her time at DHS that showed her that she could advise clients on subjects beyond her particular expertise.
When I arrived at DHS, I knew very little about the substantive areas of law that I had to advise on there, she says. Anderson quickly learned to extract information from the true experts and translate that into actionable advice for her department leaders. That skill will be very useful for me at Vanderbilt, because the university and its medical center have such a wide variety of things that we have to advise on, says the new GC. Theres no way that any one person could be an expert in all of the different areas where advice is required.
Anderson does have some prior experience with higher education: At Hogan, she worked closely with lawyers whose clients included colleges and universities. Anderson also taught appellate advocacy as an adjunct professor at American Universitys Washington College of Law from 2006 to 2007.
As general counsel, Anderson replaces DAVID WILLIAMS II, who will stay on at the university as athletics director and vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs.
The new legal chief will oversee a department of 12 lawyers. Anderson credits her time at DHS with teaching her leadership skills: At Hogan, I thought I knew how to be a good manager, but there was no one person who looked to me as their only boss. At the agency, Anderson had a team relying on her to make decisions that affected their work lives every day.
Anderson earned her bachelors degree in economics from Northwestern University in 1985 and her J.D. from the University of Michigan in 1990. After graduation, she clerked for U.S. District Judge Harold Greene, whose approach to lawyering shaped her own. At the district level, she says, judges need to be able to make decisions very quickly. That was where I really learned that the best advice I can give right now is immeasurably better than the perfect answer tomorrow, she says. Anderson subsequently clerked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1991 to 1992.