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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University September 6, 2005 | Vol. 35 No. 1
New General Counsel Named

Steve Dunham is a partner in the international firm Morrison & Foerster and a former vice president and general counsel of the University of Minnesota.

Steve Dunham, longtime higher ed attorney, to join JHU in December

By Dennis O'Shea

For Steve Dunham, being a lawyer for colleges and universities hasn't been so much a job as a calling.

"My view is that higher education law practice is pure public interest law," said Dunham, appointed last week as vice president and general counsel of Johns Hopkins.

"It covers some of the most important areas that we face as a society, obviously education, but also health, science and technology, globalization, and humanistic and democratic values," he said. "For a lawyer to work full time in the public interest for an institution as pre-eminent as Johns Hopkins is a fantastic opportunity."

Dunham, a Denver-based partner in and former chairman of the global law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP and former chief attorney at the University of Minnesota, will join the university Dec. 1. He must first complete teaching obligations at the University of Denver and transition his clients to other attorneys.

Dunham, who has taught law students throughout most of his 36-year legal career, has represented colleges and universities across a wide spectrum of legal issues, both as in-house lawyer and outside counsel. His experience includes matters as diverse as research issues, intellectual property, employment disputes, First Amendment issues, academic freedom, accreditation, ethics, and appointments and promotions.

"Steve's passion for higher education and love of the practice of law, combined with a keen intelligence and consummate skill, have made his reputation as one of the foremost higher education attorneys in the United States," said William R. Brody, president of Johns Hopkins. Brody appointed Dunham with the approval of the executive committee of the university's board of trustees.

Dunham, the son of a University of Chicago law professor, left private practice in 1979 to join the law faculty of the University of Minnesota Law School, became general counsel of the university in 1982 and was vice president and general counsel from 1985 to 1988. He then joined the Denver office of Morrison & Foerster, the business and litigation firm in whose San Francisco office he had previously practiced. He served the firm — which now has more than 1,000 attorneys in 19 cities on three continents — as a managing partner from 1990 to 1992. He was chairman from 1996 to 2000.

Dunham said he has enjoyed representing universities both as an in-house lawyer and as outside counsel.

"The advantage of being in-house is that you are closer--both geographically and also in understanding--to the client," he said. "You know the client better, understand the needs better. It lets you be more proactive; you can work on preventive lawyering and compliance."

Dunham said his aim is to "build on the very strong office that's in place," the product of a predecessor who spent 28 years as the university's general counsel before retiring in 2003.

"For many years, Estelle Fishbein was one of the pre-eminent lawyers in the field," he said. "To follow her and build on the office that she created, basically, is an honor and another attraction of the job."

Dunham also noted that Derek Savage, who has served as acting vice president and general counsel, has maintained the high quality of the office and he looks forward to working with him and the other attorneys.

Dunham, who was raised in Chicago, graduated from Princeton University in 1966 and from Yale Law School in 1969. He served as clerk to a federal district judge and taught at the University of California, Davis, and in Taiwan before joining Morrison & Foerster for the first time in 1972.

He is a member of the bar in California, Minnesota and Colorado. He has been a member of the board and a fellow of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, a director of the American Judicature Society, chair of the executive committee of the Colorado Lawyers' Committee, a member of the American Law Institute and a trustee of Mills College.


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