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University names Sidbury (’98) general counsel, chief of staff

by Chuck Gordon

The University has hired a general counsel and chief of staff. Ben Sidbury, a 1998 Wingate graduate, will take on the newly created role starting early next month.

As general counsel, Sidbury will guide all legal matters pertaining to the University and will coordinate all regulatory, compliance and Title IX efforts. As chief of staff, he will set the agendas for meetings of senior management groups, as well as coordinate ongoing projects undertaken by the leadership teams.

Sidbury will also serve as the liaison between the University and the Board of Trustees.

“As we have grown and matured as a university the past few years, the need for an in-house counsel to guide us as we make difficult decisions has become apparent,” President Rhett Brown says. “Even our outside counsel has suggested that we are overdue for this type of position.”

Several factors contributed to the decision to hire a general counsel at this time:

  • An increase in the number of compliance matters, contracts and regulations encountered by the University, and institutions of higher education in general, in recent years.
  • The massive overhaul of Title IX regulations announced by the U.S. Department of Education earlier this year.
  • The unprecedented growth of the University over the past several years.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic and the potential for such game-changing situations in the future.

“Consolidating the legal role in one person will free up other people to get on with what they do best,” Dr. Brown says. “And with Covid-19 creating challenges in higher education that were unforeseen as recently as a year ago, now is an appropriate time to employ a general counsel. The experience Ben brings to the table as a managing partner in a global law firm will be crucial as we continue to navigate the Covid waters and manage the many moving parts that make up a thriving institution of higher learning.”

Sidbury has been in practice for more than 19 years, the past eight at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP. He initially specialized in intellectual-property law, but for the past decade he has worked as a client-relationship manager dealing with a wide range of issues. He has been managing partner at Bryan Cave for the past three years.

“As client-relationship manager, I got a good feel for all kinds of different legal issues that come up,” Sidbury says. “General counsel is a good role for someone who knows a little about a lot.

“It’s a challenging legal and regulatory environment in higher ed. And then you throw the curveball of Covid in there, where everybody’s drinking out of a firehose, and there will be no shortage of interesting work. It was really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Sidbury, a Charlotte native, majored in sociology at Wingate and in 2001 received his juris doctor degree from Syracuse University, graduating magna cum laude. He was the senior notes and comments editor of the Syracuse Law Review.

Sept. 21, 2020