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Volume 68, Issue 4, Thursday, August 29, 2002

News
 

New general counsel set to represent UH

By Ken Fountain
The Daily Cougar

It's the professional obligation of all lawyers to vigorously protect the interests of their clients. In Dona Glimm Hamilton's case, her client is a
large one UH and the UH System and there's often a lot to protect.


Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar


Vice President/Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs and General Counsel Dona Hamilton began working in June as the top lawyer for UH and the
UH System.

Hamilton was named Vice Chancellor/Vice President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel in late May, and officially began her duties in June
following the approval of the UHS Board of Regents.

She replaced a controversial figure: Dennis Duffy, who resigned in May to become vice president and associate general counsel for labor and
employment at AOL/Time Warner in New York City.

Hamilton had previously served for six years as the deputy chief of the general litigation division of the Texas Attorney General's office. It was in
that position that, ironically, she defended UH in a high-profile federal lawsuit brought by Susan Septimus, a former UH associate general
counsel who claimed she had been retaliated against and "constructively discharged" that is, forced to resign after she filed complaints
that Duffy had created a hostile work environment for women under his supervision.

Although the jury in that trial found for Septimus in February and awarded her a $396,000 judgment, U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore has yet
to enter a final judgment. The lawsuit of another complainant against Duffy Facilities, Planning and Construction Business Manager Glena
Sue Yerby is set for a September trial.

Hamilton, who spent most of her formative years in the Northeast, earned a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Texas at
Austin in 1982 and completed law school there in 1986. She worked her way completely through school, beginning at age 17.

"I've had every job known to man. I've been a maid, a waitress, a secretary, a grader, a babysitter. You name it, I've done it," Hamilton said.

After earning her undergraduate degree, she worked as a staff member for a committee of the Texas House of Representatives.

"I viewed my undergraduate education as just a continuation of what I'd done when I was younger, and I wasn't really trained in a particular
career path," she said.

"Law was something that interested me. Working in the Legislature probably pushed me a little bit more towards law school," she said, even
though she didn't have any friends or family members who were lawyers.

Following graduation from law school and passing the bar exam, Hamilton worked as a staff member of the Texas Senate before first joining
the attorney general's office in 1987 as an assistant attorney general. There she had a litigation caseload of great variety institutional reform,
employment law, education law and cases involving the mentally ill and retarded.

In 1992, Hamilton joined Morehead, Jordan & Carmona, a small Austin-based firm, where she represented both plaintiffs and defendants in
large insurance cases.

"I think being a plaintiffs' lawyer helps me be a better defense lawyer, and vice versa," she said. "I've always felt committed to my clients. I'm an
empathetic person, and I've never had any trouble representing the clients that I've had."

After three years at the private firm, Hamilton was enticed to return to the attorney general's office.

"I wanted to have supervisory experience, and they offered me a job where I'd be supervising other lawyers," she said. "For every job, it's the
people that draw you to it, and I missed some of the folks that I worked with. I had a very, very good experience with the AG's office. It was a good
career for me. I don't even like to think about it in the past tense."

In her new role, she (and her subordinate lawyers) represent UH and the rest of the system in a range of legal issues.

"The variety of things that come across my desk is huge," she said.

While declining to discuss the controversies that surrounded her predecessor, Hamilton was willing to talk about her own perceptions of her
"management style."

"I think I'm approachable. I'm the 'open-door' type of person. I'm not the type of person who wants somebody to set up an appointment with me. If
someone has a problem, pick up the phone and call me, come down and see me. I'm honest and straightforward," she said.

While at any particular time the University may face a number of lawsuits, Hamilton said that part of her job is keeping open all available options
to resolve the issues involved.

"If we (the University) did something wrong, I'd want to fix it. And I think the administration would want to fix it. You're going to try to fix the problem,
and sometimes that means settling, and sometimes it doesn't," she said.

Still, Hamilton said she is passionate about serving her clients.

"It makes my job a whole lot simpler when you're representing people, for example here at the University, who are committed to making sure
students are getting the best education they can possibly have," she said.

 Send comments to dcnews@mail.uh.edu

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