About UC Legal - Office of the General Counsel

UCL 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 four sections of subject-matter experts:

  1. Litigation & Capital Strategies
  2. Business, Finance & Innovation
  3. Education Affairs, Employment & Governance
  4. Health Affairs & Technology Law

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 UCL:

Mission statement

UC Legal - 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.


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


  • 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.
Back to the top

University of California UC Legal - Office of the General Counsel Diversity Statement

The University of California UC Legal - Office of the General Counsel (“UCL”) embraces the University of California Diversity Statement, which the President of the University of California endorsed on June 30, 2006, and The Board of Regents adopted on September 20, 2007.

The UC Diversity Statement describes the value of diversity to the University at large. Diversity is equally valuable to UCL’s goal of providing the institution with the best possible legal services. The University of California serves one of the world’s most diverse communities and draws its student body, its faculty, and its employees from a wide array of backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. Providing effective legal representation and advice therefore demands that the University’s legal representatives and staff are capable of understanding and communicating with individuals from many backgrounds. Diversity within UCL enhances the ability of all of the University’s lawyers and staff to stay connected to the communities we serve and to more effectively anticipate and resolve potential legal issues. Diversity of ideas, backgrounds, and experiences among UCL staff also promotes creativity in analyzing and solving legal problems. UCL’s commitment to diversity can improve the quality of its legal service by removing barriers and therefore broadening the pool of talented individuals available to serve the University both within UCL and in the ranks of retained counsel. By establishing a diverse workplace and a culture that respects individual differences, UCL can foster the qualities necessary to provide excellent legal service in a diverse community. Furthermore, the legal profession has a special obligation to ensure equal opportunity because of its privileged societal status, its commitment to law and justice, and the historical underutilization of women and minorities in its ranks. For the same reasons, UCL values a commitment to diversity in its retained counsel.

To achieve these benefits the Oakland and campus office of UCL will:

  • Broaden the pool from which the office recruits to ensure inclusion of all qualified individuals, including members of traditionally underrepresented groups;
  • Foster a culture of inclusion and respect for differences in the workplace;
  • Evaluate and revise office policies and practices relating to employee hiring, retention and advancement to identify and eliminate barriers to diversity;
  • Retain outside counsel with a demonstrated commitment to diversity.
Back to the Top

The role of UCL 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 UC Legal - 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.

Back to the top

About UCL attorneys

UCL 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. UCL attorneys are recruited nationally, bringing diverse backgrounds, extensive experience, and subject expertise to the University. Many have come to UCL 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 UCL. Most attorneys joined UCL after becoming well-established in their legal careers and were drawn to UCL by the challenging, precedent-setting legal work, the collegial environment, and the opportunity to represent the University.

UCL 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.

Back to the top

History of UCL

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.

UC Legal - 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.

Back to the top