Vanderbilt announces new general counsel

(Photo Credit: Vanderbilt University/Steve Green)

(Photo Credit: Vanderbilt University/Steve Green)

Alexa Bussmann, Content Development Director

The university named Ruby Shellaway general counsel Feb. 8. Shellaway served as interim general counsel since July 31, 2018 and was selected for the new position after the university conducted a national search.

Shellaway has worked at Vanderbilt for three and a half years, and previously served as Deputy General Counsel. The General Counsel also serves as a vice chancellor and university secretary.

Shellaway’s primary role is to lead the Office of the General Counsel, which is made up of seven attorneys and six support team members. Shellaway works with the university chancellor and vice chancellors, providing them with legal advice. The Office of the General Counsel provides legal services to the entire university.

“It’s a little bit like we’re a legal office for a small city,” Shellaway said.

As the campus’ legal office, the Office of the General Counsel’s work affects students both directly and indirectly, according to Shellaway. Directly, the general counsel works with students who are developing ideas or projects that bring up new legal questions. This is particularly applicable for the rollout of Immersion Vanderbilt, which encourages students to pursue their passions and interests through experiential learning, she said. The office might work with professors who are working with endangered species, or who make a scientific breakthrough and are licensing it to a company.

Indirectly, the general counsel works with the university’s large initiatives,such as the construction of the new residential colleges and efforts related to equity, diversity and inclusion.

Shellaway will work with with the Office of Conflict of Interest and Commitment Management, which provides advice and support in areas of conflict of interest to the university, in her new role. The university general counsel also works closely with the general counsel at Vanderbilt University Medical Center on issues that impact the university and the medical center. As general counsel, Shellaway is excited to advance the office’s work through new technology and other modernizations to make the office more responsive to the university’s needs.

Shellway enjoys working in the higher education arena. Although she isn’t a Vanderbilt alumna, Shellaway said that she has come to truly appreciate the university and its students.

“There are a lot of legal jobs that aren’t fulfilling in the same way,” Shellaway said. “For me it’s really the opportunity of a lifetime to be able to support an institution that is doing the work that I think is just so important.”