Behind every legal decision at Samford University, the Office of General Counsel works hard to use their legal experience to advise and represent the university. On March 1, Joseph, “Jody,” Hunt will take over as Samford’s new general counsel from Clark Watson, who has served in the role for eight years.
The Office of General Counsel is comprised of the general counsel and assistant general counsel. According to Watson, the office provides legal advice to the school’s employees, executive officers and Board of Trustees. This includes contract reviews, compliance matters and outside claims, such as lawsuits.
Watson began working as general counsel in 2015, after serving on Samford’s Board of Trustees for 12 years, four of those as Chairman of the Board.
“I worked real closely with [former President] Westmoreland,” Watson said. “And then when he retired, I wanted to give President Taylor a good time of transition to make sure he got well-established in his presidency.”
Last year, during President Beck Taylor’s first year at the university, a new assistant general counsel was hired. Jared Miller started serving at Samford in March 2022. A Samford alumnus, Miller said he was honored to return to Samford to work after many years away.
“It’s been a great place to work,” Miller said. “[I] love being here at a Christian institution and working with people all towards the same mission.”
After helping Miller transition, Watson decided it was time for him to retire from the role of general counsel.
“I love Samford. I’ve been associated with Samford for a long time, and I hope I’ll stay involved in things at the university going forward, but it’s just time for someone else,” Watson said.
Watson helped President Taylor and the Board of Trustees hire Jody Hunt, conducting numerous interviews with Hunt before he was selected for the role. Watson attested to the fact that Hunt will be the perfect man for the job.
“He’s a wonderful guy,” Watson said. “He’s a Samford alumnus. He’s a very accomplished attorney. He’s been in some of the most important activities of the United States in terms of legal matters over the past several decades.”
Hunt graduated from Samford in 1982 as co-valedictorian of his class, receiving his bachelor’s degree in public administration. He then attended Florida State University for his master’s degree and considered teaching higher education before deciding to go to law school instead. He attested that he always wanted to teach at the university level, and his new job as general counsel will combine that desire with his legal expertise.
“When I heard the general counsel position at Samford was open, it seemed in many ways to me like a match made in heaven,” Hunt said. “I could now use the legal experiences and practical skills I have developed over the course of my career to fulfill a long-standing dream of mine to be a part of higher education and to do so at Samford, my alma mater and a place that means so much to me.”
Hunt has held a wide variety of different jobs and responsibilities over the years, including chief of staff to the attorney general of the United States and assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Division – the largest litigating component of the federal government.
Although he has extensive experience with law, Hunt knows that working for a university will present new challenges.
“There are constant changes in the law and new interpretations of the law by the courts that affect higher education institutions, and so it will be important to stay abreast of those developments on an ongoing basis,” Hunt said.
Hunt said that, not only does he look forward to working in higher education, but he is especially thankful to have the opportunity to work at a university like Samford.
“I believe in Samford’s mission,” Hunt said, “and I feel privileged to have this opportunity to return to my alma mater to seek to make a contribution to yet another generation of students and others whose lives are impacted by all that Samford has to offer.”