You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

U-M's new general counsel tells faculty his job is to represent the university and help it avoid risk

By Kellie Woodhouse

University of Michigan's recently hired general counsel met with faculty Monday and explained his new gig.

"My job is to represent the university, to represent the regents, to represent the president and executive officers and, where appropriate, individual employees," said Timothy Lynch, who assumed U-M's top legal position Jan. 7. "To give my best judgement and advice regardless of who's asking the question, that's my job as general counsel."

Timothy Lynch1.jpg

Timothy Lynch

Lynch is a former top attorney at the U.S. Department of Energy. He was hired to replace Suellyn Scarnecchia, who left administration to return to teaching at the law school.

During the Monday afternoon meeting with the faculty senate's advisory committee on university affairs, Lynch said he would help administrators "avoid risk" by advising them on practices and policy choices. Ever the risk manager, Lynch advised one faculty member to stop speaking when he thought the subject matter (the appearance of course material used in a Coursera class without the professor's knowledge) was too sensitive to share in front of the media.

He emphasized the importance of compliance, both to avoid criminal issues and grant misconduct.

"It's really a vital thing for any entity this size ... to have a strong compliance culture, and to have not just a culture but to have tools in which people can bring [up] issues."

Lynch said he'll employ a hands-on leadership style as general counsel.

"I go to the other offices" outside of the Fleming Administration building, where Lynch is based. "That’s the way I like to manage and that's the way I’ve managed lawyers in the past."

He said that although his department has offices in Fleming, the health system, university development and the office of technology transfer, he doesn't "view anyone as a sub-office."

"We work together because we have one client," he said.

When asked, Lynch, who has lectured at Georgetown University and the University of Virginia, said faculty views are important to the general counsel's office. He said some lawyers in the office also adjunct for the law school.

"This is a university, this is not a widget manufacturer," he said. "This is a university so the views of the faculty are important."

Faculty views, Lynch said, will be considered as his department helps create a new document disposal policy.

Lynch earns $400,000 annually, $88,000 more than his predecessor.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 4:15 p.m.

Cut the guy a little slack for a bit, he is new to the "academy" and it will take him awhile to get a handle on who/what his client is. However if he does not keep to "legal" risk analysis and let's the various regents define his job or what exactly "risk" means he is in for a very difficult time. Attorneys are generally way, way, way too conservative, (yet very confident about their ability) to define or evaluate risk other than the legal side. He would be well served to get out and chat with folks outside Fleming beyond the lawyers on his staff and all the lawyer regents. There is a reason for lawyer jokes.


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 8:49 p.m.

If you want to manage risk, the University should punish administrators who misbehave rather than protecting them by going after the whistleblowers. That would cut back on the repeat offenders. Look at the successful lawsuits against the University and ask if the administrators who were responsible were ever punished. They never punish the higher ups, it is always the small fry.


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 8:47 p.m.

He mentions specifically grant misconduct but whenever anyone in the University community begins to stumble upon the biggest grant misconduct of all, namely the inflating of "effort" certification of federal grants, they get clobbered. I have multiple examples of faculty who report efforts as high as 96% on grants when they report it to the granting agency but when they get their annual reviews, it becomes 96% out of 180% total effort (effort can never exceed 100% in federal rules even if you work 80 hours a week). The University therefore inflates the effort on the grant so that the granting agency will reimburse them for more of the faculty members salary. I have calculated this to amount to be more than $100 million in penalties if anyone decided to sue them. Thus, the General Counsel's job has been to shut up the whistleblowers because the University would lose too much money if they actually reported effort accurately.

Eugene Daneshvar

Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 2:43 p.m.

What happens when representing the University conflicts with representing the regents, the U president, and the executive officers? The assumption is that the administration does everything in interests of the University. I don't think that is always true. My personal case ( exemplifies that.


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 1:54 p.m.

New head of CYA at the Big U eh?