Introduction of the Office of University Counsel (PDAD&C #24)

From: Kristin Taylor, University Counsel and Chief Legal Officer
Date: January 28, 2022
Re: Introduction of the Office of University Counsel (PDAD&C #24)

I am pleased to announce the creation of the Office of University Counsel (“OUC”) which will be responsible for the provision of legal services necessary to support the activities of the University.  This announcement follows an external review commissioned in 2020 to assess the provision of legal services across the entire University. The reviewers recommended that, with the growing scale, scope and complexity of University business, the delivery of legal services at the University would benefit from a stronger degree of coordination and centralization.  Upon being appointed as the University’s inaugural University Counsel & Chief Legal Officer, with a mandate to ensure that both internal and external legal resources are utilized efficiently and effectively, I began a broad consultation with key stakeholders across the University to understand the University’s legal needs and the opportunities for growth and alignment of services.  The consistency of feedback and experiences shared confirmed the view that the alignment of legal services within a single department would be instrumental in ensuring future legal needs of the University are met and that such services are accessible, timely and coordinated.

The priorities of the OUC are threefold: 

1.  Enhancing client service,

2. Fostering collaboration and integration of legal services, and

3. Team development. 

In prioritizing client service, the OUC aims to ensure excellence in the advice provided by ensuring that appropriate legal resources are provided on a timely basis, including both internal and external legal counsel.  Processes are under development to ensure that access to services is transparent, timely and equitable for those requiring legal support across the University.  The second priority, to promote internal collaboration and integration in legal services, aims to ensure that legal advice is provided in an efficient and consistent way, through deeper alignment, knowledge-sharing, collaboration and coordination between members of the University’s legal team.  Finally, an important purpose of the new OUC is to provide lawyers with a more supportive discipline home.  Through dedicated team development initiatives, all legal counsel will benefit from a richer set of opportunities for professional growth, mentoring and development.

Effective immediately, all practicing lawyers across the University will have a reporting relationship with the OUC.  While some lawyers will remain embedded in a Division due to a required specialization or unique context, most legal counsel will be considered a central resource and will be available to all Divisions.  More specific details on OUC structure and reporting relationships will be shared in the coming weeks. 

The immediate focus for the OUC will be to meet with Division leads and other key stakeholders across the University to further introduce the new structure and to discuss the development of area-specific processes for accessing legal services.  These conversations will inform my assessment of the University’s legal needs and will help shape future recruitment priorities.  I will also be undertaking an analysis of the use of external legal service provision across the University.  We will be launching a website for OUC in the coming months, which will provide more information about the new structure, processes and initiatives underway.  As always, I welcome further input and feedback from University users of legal services.