About the Office of General Counsel

OGC is a service organization dedicated to helping our clients conduct their business effectively and in accord with legal and policy requirements. We see ourselves not just as experts on those requirements, but as problem-solvers committed to helping resolve issues in a practical, timely and efficient manner.

The Oakland office is organized into five sections of subject-matter experts:

  1. Business transactions and land use
  2. Educational affairs and campus services
  3. Health law and medical center services
  4. Litigation, labor and employment
  5. Governance and compliance.

Campus and Medical Center-based attorneys provide advice and counsel to senior management and others on the campuses and at the Medical Centers on a broad range of legal issues, working as needed in coordination with Oakland attorneys.

Learn more about OGC:

Mission statement

The Office of the General Counsel, working collaboratively with our clients, seeks to advance the University’s mission through skilled advice, vigorous advocacy, and effective, proactive counsel.

Vision

Our goal is to be valued and trusted partners, recognized for our creativity, industry-leading expertise, and commitment to client objectives.

Values

  • As service providers, we are dedicated to delivering exceptionally high quality, timely and responsive solutions to our clients.
  • As team members, we are collaborative, supportive, respectful of differences, and committed to fairness and diversity in all our interactions, both within and outside the team.
  • As individuals, we are engaged in our mission, accountable for results, and subscribe to the highest standards of integrity and ethics in everything we do.

The role of OGC in governance of the University

The General Counsel is a principal officer of The Regents. The General Counsel attends and participates in all meetings of The Regents and reports at each meeting to the Committee on Finance on current legal issues and significant developments in litigation. From time to time, the General Counsel seeks authorization from the Board with respect to initiation and settlement of litigation. In addition, the Board may on occasion be called upon for a policy decision on litigation or possible litigation. In other circumstances, the General Counsel acts pursuant to his general charge with respect to University legal matters or specifically delegated authority.

The mission of the Office of the General Counsel is, in short, to act as legal counsel for the multifaceted institution that is the University of California. Although the ultimate client is the corporate entity of The Regents of the University of California, all University officials are the clients of the office. In carrying out its work, the office seeks to be alert to legal risks presented by proposed courses of action while being sensitive to the responsibility of the University administration to determine what level of legal risk is ultimately acceptable. Moreover, the office emphasizes the need for innovation and creativity in assisting University managers in developing new and useful approaches to the issues and opportunities confronting the institution. To this end, emphasis is placed on early involvement in emerging issues and activities. The objective is to provide legal services of a quality commensurate with the University’s commitment to excellence in all of its activities.

About OGC attorneys

OGC currently has approximately 70 full-time attorneys, 40 of which reside in Oakland, in six specialized practice groups; the rest are located on campuses, medical centers, or the UC-managed national laboratory. OGC attorneys have left practices as far away as the East Coast to join OGC and have brought diverse backgrounds and extensive experience in their fields of expertise. Many have come to OGC directly from private law practices, where some of them were partners in prestigious firms. Others have come with experience from positions in city, state, federal governments or corporate in-house positions before joining OGC. Most attorneys joined OGC after becoming well-established in their legal careers and were drawn to OGC by the challenging, precedent-setting legal work, the collegial environment, and the opportunity to represent the University.

OGC also has a highly-skilled group of paralegals, administrative and technical staff many of whom have been with the office for more than 20 years.

Attorneys within the office are members of the National Association of College and University attorneys (NACUA), an organization encompassing approximately 650 institutional members. NACUA is an excellent means of keeping informed of current legal developments pertaining to colleges and universities through its publications and annual conferences and through contacts with counterparts at other universities. Attorneys in the office are encouraged to participate in continuing education programs including, in particular, those presented by Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB), which is a joint University-State Bar of California program.

History of OGC

Prior to 1954, legal services for the University were provided by retained counsel. The title Counsel of The Regents was established in 1877. The first attorney to hold that position was Henry H. Haight, who had signed the Organic Act creating the University of California while Governor of the State in 1868. John U. Calkins, Jr., held the position of Attorney for The Regents from 1923 to 1955. In 1954, Mr. Calkins, accompanied by Ashley H. Conard and John E. Landon, withdrew from his San Francisco law firm and established the Office of Attorney for The Regents within the University.

The following year, Mr. Calkins retired and was succeeded by Thomas J. Cunningham, then a Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court, who upon assuming office became the first General Counsel of The Regents. Mr. Cunningham retired in 1973 after having presided over the legal affairs of the University in a period marked by rapid growth and development of new campuses. During his tenure, the number of attorneys in the office increased from three to fifteen. Donald L. Reidhaar held the position of General Counsel from July 1, 1973, until his death in December 1985. Then-Deputy General Counsel James E. Holst became acting General Counsel, and subsequently General Counsel in June 1986. He served through June 2006. Jeffrey A. Blair, an attorney in the General Counsel’s Office, served as Acting General Counsel until the appointment of Charles Robinson, who became General Counsel in January 2007. Mr. Robinson had been the General Counsel of the California Independent System Operator.

The Office of the General Counsel is now the equivalent of a medium-sized law firm providing a full range of legal services to the entire University consisting of ten campuses, five medical schools and teaching hospitals, management or co-management of three major research laboratories, and over 150,000 employees.