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Business Officer Magazine

Work Together, Worry Less

What keeps a chief business officer up at night? And what does a general counsel worry about? How can the two work together? These were some of the topics of discussion at a featured session, "The General Counsel and Chief Financial Officer: Forging a Strong and Effective Working Relationship."

It's not surprising that the top issues of concern for both the chief business officer and general counsel are the same, said Kathleen Santora, chief executive officer, National Association of College and University Attorneys. General counsels worry about compliance issues, reduced budget and resources, the changing models of higher education, the changing role of the general counsel, and student issues, such as campus violence.

CBOs worry about the broken business model of higher education, including issues such as revenue and tuition discounting, regulations and compliance, diminished public support for higher education, governance issues, and technology issues, said John Walda, president and chief executive officer, NACUBO.

That's why a strong relationship between the CBO and the general counsel is essential to the institution's success, said Nim Chinniah, vice president, administration, and chief financial officer, University of Chicago, Illinois. "Both of us are expected to be advisers to the president and the board." Chinniah and the institution's general counsel work together on several issues, such as global expansion, risk, salaries, compliance, and governance. "The more we can communicate with each other, the better it is for our relationship. We also need to have respect for each other. We need to be partners in the process."

Jonathan Alger, president, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia, said, "CBOs and general counsels have institutionwide perspective that other positions do not have." The two are critical in forming a strong relationship with the board.

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