Meet Thomas C. Shanahan: New VP & General Counsel of UNC System

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on October 15, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Last week, the University of North Carolina Board of Governors appointed Thomas C. Shanahan as the new Vice President and General Counsel of the 17-campus UNC system.

Wondering how to snag a sweet in-house spot in the higher-education realm? You may want to borrow a page from Shanahan's playbook.

The Coveted "Interim" Foot in the Door

Like becoming a museum curator, sometimes you just have to wait for someone to pass away leave the position before you can vie for a coveted GC spot.

Fortunately for Shanahan, his waiting game was less morbid than political. He was bestowed with the golden "interim" ticket to the cushy position after Laura B. Fjeld resigned in April (literally, not figuratively) to pursue a run for Congress, according to The Herald Sun.

After proving his worth on an interim basis, Shanahan was offered the full-time position. As vice president and general counsel, he will continue to serve as the UNC system's senior legal officer, which will entail providing advice and counsel to UNC system President Tom Ross, the UNC Board of Governors and the system's senior staff on all legal and policy issues.

As we all know, serving as a legal advisor in the university setting can be incredibly tough. From banana and lobster thieves to constitutionally dubious school protocol, the days ahead of Shanahan will certainly be busy ones filled with a panoply of exciting legal issues.

The Shanahan Route

Shanahan first joined the UNC General Administration in 2010 as Associate Vice President for Legal Affairs. During that time, he handled a range of higher education matters, guiding the UNC system on matters concerning employment law, administrative law, policy and compliance, reports The Sun.

Prior to that position, he spent more than a decade in private practice and with the U.S. Department of Labor, serving as deputy regional solicitor for the Southeast in the Office of the Solicitor, deputy regional director of the Employee Benefits Security Administration for the Southeast and as supervisory trial counsel in a variety of Labor Department matters.

He is a graduate of Cornell University and the University of Georgia School of Law.

If you're interested in pursuing a similar path, take your planning to a meta level and educate yourself on in-house positions in education.

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