Greta Schnetzler Named Chief Campus Counsel at UCSF

Greta Schnetzler, JD

UC San Francisco and the UC Office of the General Counsel have jointly appointed Greta Schnetzler, JD, a well-respected attorney with extensive experience in higher education, as Chief Campus Counsel at UCSF.

She will replace longtime UC attorney Marcia Canning, JD, who will retire in June.

Schnetzler has served UCSF as the Deputy Campus Counsel since 2005. Prior to that, she was a partner at Gordon & Rees LLP, where she specialized in representing universities in all aspects of employment, civil rights and education law. 

“I am delighted that Greta Schnetzler will serve as Chief Campus Counsel at UCSF,” says Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH. “She is well versed in employment and education law. Over the past eight years, Greta has proven to be a valuable legal advisor to me and my leadership team on a number of important issues, from labor and employment law, to academic, medical and student affairs, research compliance and global health programs.”

Growing up on a farm with horses and cows, Schnetzler had wanted to be a veterinarian. But no matter the number of ailing animals she brought home to care for, her father encouraged her to be an attorney. “He said I was such a good advocate,” Schnetzler remembers. “I was known in my family for my logical arguments.”

After graduating in the top third of her law class with a JD degree from Vanderbilt University, Schnetzler served as an associate attorney, and later as a partner, at Gordon & Rees LLP. It was there that she had the opportunity to work with Michael Lucey, JD, — who was recently selected as one of the top 100 Attorney’s in Northern California. Lucey mentored Schnetzler and supported her professional growth.

“He taught me to stand up for my point of view and to trust my intuition,” Schnetzler says. “He also taught me the value of hard work and always being well-prepared.”

Together Lucey and Schnetzler hired, trained and developed a cadre of employment lawyers who are now successful and highly sought after for their expertise. To this day, the training and mentoring of these young attorneys is one of her proudest accomplishments.

Schnetzler has benefited from other professional development opportunities beyond the mentoring she received from Lucey. She has been actively involved in the National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA), for which she has served on working groups and led committees. Eventually, she was elected to the NACUA Board of Directors, completing a three-year term in June 2012. “Working with NACUA has been a great leadership development opportunity for me,” Schnetzler says.

She also participated in the first Leadership Academy, part of UCSF’s Leadership Development Program designed to advance the skills of mid- and senior-level leaders. The Leadership Academy opened her up to the possibility of serving in an advanced leadership role at UCSF. “It showed me that I needed to be more proactive in my professional development,” she says. “I needed to raise my hand.” Schnetzler also benefited from the executive coaching provided through the program. “The coaching was really essential,” she says. “It provided a great deal of clarity, helping me focus on the big picture and on developing a long-range plan.”

Schnetzler is currently participating in the UC Office of the President (UCOP), UC – CORO Leadership Collaboration, which she says “has been a really nice finishing school.” As the only participant based at one of the UC campuses, Schnetzler has found the engagement between campus and UCOP leaders to be very valuable, particularly in advancing a shared understanding of each organization’s respective needs.

Schnetzler also noted that the Chancellor’s Leadership Speaker Series has been thought provoking, providing her with some innovative ideas on how to address organizational challenges. “I have my best ideas about how to solve the problems on my desk when I am away from it,” she says.

As her manager, Marcia Canning has supported these development activities. Over the years, Schnetzler has broadened her legal portfolio and advanced her leadership skills. “She serves as an emissary of the office,” Canning says.

A champion of professional development, Chancellor Desmond-Hellmann is impressed by Schnetzler’s commitment to her own leadership and career advancement. “I am pleased to see a graduate of some of our development programs take on this important role.”

Schnetzler brings a number of critical leadership qualities to the position of Chief Campus Counsel. She is well known for her poise and intelligence. Says mentor Lacey, “I cannot recall a single instance where Greta ‘lost her cool.’ She has that quintessential grace under pressure.” 

Canning puts it this way, “Greta has stunning judgment, which I find to be one of the most critical gifts or characteristics a person can have in this job.” 

This judgment will prove essential as Schnetzler has big shoes to fill. Canning has served in the role of Chief Campus Counsel for 12 years. During that time, she built a highly respected and responsive Office of Legal Affairs, which successfully stewarded the University through a range of complex legal matters.

But Schnetzler is clearly up to the challenge. “We are focused on being more efficient, more effective, more excellent,” Schnetzler says. “It is a dynamic environment and takes some new thinking to bring the necessary legal resources to bear in support of UCSF’s success.”

Photo by Susan Merrell