Attorney Gail Baker has been brought to CSUN through the campus attorney rotation method, to represent the university in legal matters, said Colleen Bentley-Adler, director of public affairs for the CSU Chancellor’s Office.
“Cal State attorneys are moved around to different campuses in an effort to keep attorneys from getting stale,” Bentley-Adler said. “Most attorneys represent two campuses and are rotated to get a wider feel (of the practice at different universities).”
Baker also represents CSU, East Bay, formerly known as CSU, Hayward, Bentley-Adler said.
Due to the large size of most universities, a wide variety of issues must be dealt with, ranging from human resource issues, to people suing the campus, to employees who need to be reminded to do a better job, Baker said.
“One of the things I like about this job, especially for larger campuses, (is that) it’s like a small city, and the issues that come up are very broad,” Baker said. “It can be construction, police issues, (or) problem employees. There is such a huge variety of issues that can come up.”
While Baker was attending CSU, Fullerton, an incident occurred on campus which prompted her to have curiosities about the legal system, she said.
“When I was at Fullerton, one of the professors was arrested for murder, and some friends and I started attending the preliminary hearings on his trial,” Baker said. “I realized through that experience that I had a lot of preconceived justices.”
She has been part of the Office of General Counsel since June 1995, and is the team leader of the Academic Student Affairs Team. Baker has spent six years working in private practice with the Los Angeles Office of Perkins Coie.
Since 1996, Baker has also been on the board of the Women’s Shelter of Long Beach, and was vice president from 1999 until 2002, and president until 2003, said Holly Ferris, communications director for the organization.
The CSU Chancellor’s Office makes sure there is a lawyer representing the university, said Harry Hellenbrand, CSUN provost.
About a month into her position at CSUN, Baker has helped with issues regarding security information, student rights, grants and contract and copyright issues, Hellenbrand said. When dealing with legal jargon, Baker helps faculty members understand the terms, he said.
“The law can be very technical,” Hellenbrand said. “She puts things in lay terms, and that’s crucial. She’s helping us understand the law.”
To work in the university counsel, an individual must be a Jack or Jill of all trades since a variety of campus rules and laws must be dealt with, Hellenbrand said.
Baker is responsive to legal matters and is easily accessible, said Penelope Jennings, interim vice president of Faculty Affairs.
“(Baker’s) best qualities are that she has a good knowledge of higher education law, and helps with issue identification,” Jennings said. “She was able to connect me with contacts to deal with my issues.”
Within only a month of working at CSUN, Baker said she is in the process of getting to know everyone.
“I hope in the near future I can get a better sense for the campus’ legal (issues), get to know the presidents (and) vice presidents as quickly as I can, what their priorities and goals are, and what needs to be done,” Baker said.