It was October 2006 when Henry “Chip” Lazenby took control as the first interim general counsel in the President’s Office at Portland State.
It was October 2006 when Henry “Chip” Lazenby took control as the first interim general counsel in the President’s Office at Portland State. Now, almost four years later, he has been hired as the attorney for Multnomah County.
Lazenby is not the only person celebrating career advancement. David Reese, who stood alongside Lazenby during the past three years as assistant general counsel, has filled the position left vacant by Lazenby.
“This is one of those opportunities that comes along very infrequently, so you have to move on it when it happens,” Lazenby said.
Lazenby and Reese worked together for nearly three years. On a day-to-day basis, the two lawyers dealt with a medley of topics.
Broadly speaking, Lazenby described the job of general counsel as advising “the university, its faculty and administrative staff on legal matters relating to a variety of issues.”
According to Lazenby, these issues range from student records and privacy issues to constitutional issues pertaining to free speech and the right to peaceful assembly.
There were also occasions during which the duo would work with the university administration on the subject of management issues, such as negotiating a union contract or employee discipline.
“It’s really a generalist sort of legal practice; a little bit of everything,” Reese said.
Although this is his first time holding the general counsel position, Reese has had a long history participating in this sort of work environment.
He began to get involved in general counsel about 14 years ago when he was a law student at the University of Michigan. He got a summer job that helped guide him to the position he holds today.
“I had a summer job as a law clerk in the university’s office of general counsel,” Reese said. “And at that point I realized this was the career I wanted.”
Law firm jobs brought him from Detroit to Portland. In 2003, he began working for Governor Ted Kulongoski in his office of legal counsel. In 2007, he took the position as assistant general counsel at PSU.
“It was something I couldn’t pass up, because it was where I really wanted to practice law,” he said. “It’s the kind of law I really wanted to practice. Even though I had a great, interesting, fascinating job in the governor’s office, I wanted to come here.”
When Lazenby first became a lawyer, he spent seven years working in the very office building he now runs. He was hired first as a trial lawyer and then moved into a general counsel position.
Now, Lazenby oversees 15 lawyers, in addition to their support staff, in the same building.
“It was an opportunity that…[allowed] me to basically come home to the office that I had worked in as a younger lawyer, but come back…as the boss and continue doing the public service work that I enjoy as well,” Lazenby said.
Although Reese currently holds his dream job as general counsel, it may not be as long-term as he would like. He was hired as an interim general counsel, which means a permanent seat could still be found.
Only a month into his interim position, the search is already going on for a candidate to permanently fill the general counsel seat. According to PSU’s Human Resources website, applicants were encouraged to apply for the position before October, but the posting will stay open until the final candidates are selected.
Reese has not heard how the search is going, but he does know that he is a candidate for the permanent spot.
“I’m dedicated to public service, I love higher education [and] the university environment,” Reese said. “And I love practicing law. This is really the perfect job.”
Whether the permanent seat ends up going to him or not, Reese is enthusiastic about any time he spends in the hot seat.
“I’m just really excited to have the opportunity to…continue working with the president, the administration, the faculty and the students, [trying] to achieve the president’s visions of the future of this institution,” Reese said. “This is a great institution; it has so much going for it. I am excited just to have the opportunity to be part of it.”
Lazenby is also fond of PSU, and insisted that his reason for leaving did not have anything to do with the university itself.
“I just enjoy the work that the county does with a lot of disadvantaged populations. [I think] I’m going to find it to be a lot of fun, as well as good and challenging work,” he said. ?