Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. John R. Thelin


Much has been written in the literature of higher education on the history and current role of presidents, provosts, and deans. However, higher education scholars have, for the most part ignored the role of institutional in-house attorneys on college and university campuses. Those who have written on the subject of institutional counsel have proffered the idea that in-house general counsel offices were established as a result of the increased regulation of higher education by state and federal governments, and litigation resulting from the faculty and student rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s. This project seeks to provide a detailed justification for the rationale for the proliferation of counsel offices, and to provide a base-line qualitative, interview-based approach to the current role of college and university attorneys.

Using a historical, document based approach this dissertation provides a comprehensive exploration of the argument that the establishment and growth of offices of the general counsel on college and university campuses was rooted in litigation. This dissertation further builds on the notion that as colleges and universities became larger and more complex, federal and state governments increased regulatory and reporting demands and accountability on institutions.

A second issue that this dissertation covers is the way in which modern day institutional counsel view their roles within a college or university. Using Oral History Methodology, three attorneys were interviewed about their perceptions of their roles. Based on those interviews, this dissertation proffers the idea that an institutional counsel’s view of his or her role is linked to the nature of the individual campus and its leadership, and the structure of the office in which the attorney works. This dissertation also puts the role of the institutional counsel into the context of institutional actors by comparing it with the role of the academic dean.

In addition to showing that the role of the institutional counsel is institution dependent, the results of this project indicate that the role of the institutional general counsel is an area ripe for additional study.