On the Inside Track

Seven Vanderbilt Law alumni who have served or are serving as their company's general counsel discuss the challenges of bearing the ultimate responsibility for how their company's legal matters are handled, advising senior executives and boards of directors, and dealing with matters as mundane as 401(k) loans, as serious as a government investigation, and as exhilarating as an initial public offering.


David Williams II
Vice Chancellor for University Affairs and Athletics, General Counsel and University Secretary, Vanderbilt University, and Professor of Law

David Williams II

David Williams starts every Monday by meeting with the 11 attorneys who work with him in the university's Office of the General Counsel to review the events of the previous week and discuss current projects.

Williams' role as Vanderbilt University's general counsel and university secretary is only one of several important roles he plays at Vanderbilt. In fact, the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) is among the smallest of several Vanderbilt departments Williams heads. But Williams describes the OGC's responsibilities as "huge." He and his staff provide legal advice and counsel to every area of the university, including the Board of Trust, administrators, faculty, staff and student organizations, and work closely with the university's Risk and Insurance Management, Compliance and Conflict of Interest functions, which Williams also heads.

“The complexity of a university with thousands of students, teachers, a major athletic program, 10 different schools and a medical center provides for a very active and interesting legal landscape.”

"Our mission is to protect, advance and advocate the legal rights and responsibilities of Vanderbilt University, and that includes the medical center and all of our schools and colleges," Williams said. "We deal with every legal issue a university like this would have—employment, human resources, student affairs, real estate deals, contracts, liability—everything. The complexity of a university with thousands of students, teachers, a major athletic program, 10 different schools and a medical center provides for a very active and interesting legal landscape. It's amazing when you think of all the different things we do. We deal with some very sensitive situations and handle some difficult negotiations. We hire outside counsel to help with litigation, but our goal is to handle all of the other things directly."

Williams joined Vanderbilt University in 2000. In addition to serving as vice chancellor, general counsel and a professor of law, Williams is active in the American Bar Association, having served on numerous ABA accreditation site visits to law schools and on the ABA's Standing Committee on Public Education, and in the American Association of Law Schools (AALS). He is also active in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), currently serving as chair of the NCAA's Infractions Appeals Committee and as a member of its Division I Academic Cabinet and on its General Counsel Advisory Board. At the law school, he teaches classes in tax, sports and education law.

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