WEB-EXCLUSIVE: In-house legal counsel to provide new support for college

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By Tasha Cook

Several recent changes to the college were revealed during President Terry Calaway’s message to college staff Aug. 26. One of those changes is the hiring of Tanya Wilson as the new internal general legal counsel for the college.

Wilson started Sept. 19. This is the first time the college has hired for this position. Previously, all legal matters were dealt with through outsourcing.

“The reality is that there is a lot of legal issues that the institution has and faces,” President Calaway said. “As we started to look at the dollars and cents of how it all worked, there are some things that we always will probably outsource to external law firms, but there are a lot of things that I would describe as boiler-plate issues that an internal person could provide for us at a significantly reduced hourly rate.”

Calaway said the college is large enough and has enough activity that it will save money for the institution overall, and having a counsel on the inside will help maintain consistency.

Wilson, who comes to the college after serving 11 years as internal counsel for the Cerner Corporation, said the main objective as of now is to see to any matters that come up. She said right now she is working on a day-to-day basis because the job is so new to the college, but said she anticipates setting long-term goals in the future.

“One of my goals will be to bring efficiencies to the legal matters that the college has,” she said, “so having the direct interaction day in and day out with the business teams and really knowing the college will help bring those efficiencies.”

The college will still use external attorney Mark Ferguson for litigation issues which may arise, Calaway said.

“The reality is that we will always have external claims too,” he said. “I would say more often than not most of those claims are pretty frivolous, but when you go to court you want to have a good team there too, so that stands to reason. Not that Tanya couldn’t litigate, because she can and she has, but we probably would go outside for those litigation services.”

Eventually, Ferguson and Wilson will work together on legal matters, said Judy Korb, executive vice president of Human Resources and Workforce and Community Development.

“We probably haven’t completely figured that out because we’ve not had this role before,” Korb said. “It will probably evolve, but it will be a partnership. There definitely will still be a relationship there.”

Calaway said he is unsure of how much the college will save until future budgets are released, but hopes the college can save up to six figures with this move.

“We want to put more money into the classroom and less into legal fees,” he said. “We think it’s a good business decision.”

Although Wilson’s hiring will likely have a minimal effect on the day-to-day lives of students, it will affect how the college deals with students in regards to school policies.

“Student rights and responsibilities are a dynamic process,” said Dennis Day, vice president of Student Services. “The rules and the regulations and the policies that we’ve had for years need constant review to make sure that we are, as a college, up to date with case law.

“Will it affect how we deal with students and what you as a student can expect the college to support or not support, that’s going to have some effect.”

Because the position of internal legal counsel is new to the college, all of the details are still being worked out, said Korb and Wilson. But Korb said she believes the college will benefit from this addition.

“We’re excited to have Tanya here, and I do think it will really help us overall,” she said. “We’re a big place and we have a lot of things going on, so I think she’s going to be an amazing resource for us in-house.”

Contact Tasha Cook, managing editor, at tcook15@jccc.edu.

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