Shur’s shoes hard to fill

By Cara Donfrio

“Honestly, I wish George Shur wouldn’t retire.”

Although NIU President John Peters doesn’t want to see General Counsel Shur leave, Shur is retiring in January after about 20 years at NIU.

He will focus his time and attention on traveling and his family.

His exit will leave vacant an important position that will need to be filled.

What is a general counsel?

For those students who don’t know what the general counsel does, Shur offered a detailed explanation.

“General counsel, in the most general terms, deals with all legal processes of a university,” Shur said. “We deal with student issues, faculty issues, human rights issues and grants with outside companies.”

Shur said that because a general counsel has so many different areas of responsibility, he can only know so much about each area. He offered a quote from Peter Ruger, a friend of his who’s the general counsel at Southern Illinois University.

Shur believed that the quote accurately expressed a general counsel’s responsibility among many different topics.

“‘Being a university attorney is like being the Platt River in Nebraska,’” Shur quoted Ruger. “‘You’re a mile wide, but only a few inches deep.’”

Because of this, Shur said, it’s important for a general counsel to work with others around him to do the best job possible.

He added that there are certain things that a general counsel does not do such as writing wills and criminal work, and that the most important thing that a counsel can do is plan ahead.

“Practicing preventative law is the key to being a university attorney,” Shur said.

Filling the void

A large part of the job is to keep the university out of trouble, and when President Peters looks for someone to take Shur’s place, he will be looking for someone who can do that.

“The school has been sued before,” Peters said. “I’ll be looking for someone with higher education and experience in a university setting.”

Peters made clear that filling the general counsel position was foremost in his mind, but that he wasn’t yet sure how he would go about doing so.

“Right now, I’m looking at our legal function and our budget situation,” Peters said.

Peters will look for a person who has the ability and experience to function well within the university setting, but he said doesn’t know who Shur’s replacement will be yet.

“I’m not in a position to say for sure,” he said. “This is an important position and George Shur has tremendous experience. It’s foremost in my mind.”