Spring 2015


New Scholarship Fund Focuses on Dual Degree Opportunities

By Amy Spooner

A man in a sweater and button-down smiles in front of a warm wood wall.
Jim Shaughnessy, JD/MPP ’79

During the course of his career, Jim Shaughnessy, JD/MPP ’79, has been a law firm associate, an entrepreneur, an executive responsible for functions ranging from human resources to procurement, and general counsel for global companies. It’s a career as broad as the education that positioned him for success.

As a dual-degree student in law and public policy, Shaughnessy was trained at two of the world’s top schools in their respective disciplines, and he appreciated the support that each program gave to interdisciplinary study. 

“It was a unique opportunity to combine legal study with other intellectual passions. I developed a base of knowledge, an approach to analysis, and an intellectual curiosity at Michigan that made it possible to learn anything,” he says.

Through the new Shaughnessy Family Scholarship Fund at Michigan Law, Shaughnessy wants to help Michigan Law students—particularly those in dual degree programs, who incur an extra year of educational expenses while foregoing a year’s income—pursue a broad education at the University. 

“As I look at the cost of attending law school today, I feel very fortunate to have earned my degree at a time when there was more state support and legal education cost less,” he says.

After graduation, Shaughnessy entered private practice in Washington, D.C., before moving into the business world. A failed attempt to start his own business—”We were trying to launch an Internet company before there was an Internet, which was a problem,” he notes—ultimately led Shaughnessy to work as in-house counsel for several high-profile companies, including PeopleSoft, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, and Orbitz. 

“Michigan is an exceptional place. For more than 150 years, the Law School has been producing leaders of our society and the best lawyers in the profession— our alumni’s list of accomplishments could fill volumes.”

Today, Shaughnessy is senior vice president, general counsel, and secretary at Workday, a Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions company based in the San Francisco Bay area. 

Along the way, he says, he has been fortunate to work for interesting companies that kept him on his toes intellectually. 

“Opportunities to learn are what make practicing law interesting over the course of a long career. Every day a broad range of issues cross my desk, and I relish the chance to dig into them.”

As Shaughnessy credits Michigan with giving him the knowledge and skills for success, he says it is important that the Law School is able to continue delivering an excellent education that is broadly affordable—an important reason he was motivated to endow a scholarship fund. 

“Michigan is an exceptional place. For more than 150 years, the Law School has been producing leaders of our society and the best lawyers in the profession—our alumni’s list of accomplishments could fill volumes. I want to do my part to help the school continue this mission.”

He also wanted the fund to celebrate his family’s ties to Michigan, which include daughter Anne Shaughnessy, ’14, and son James Jr., MBA ’12. Hearing Anne, now a first-year associate at Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP in New York, describe the deep friendships with her classmates and the faculty’s commitment to quality teaching reminded Shaughnessy of what makes Michigan Law special to him, both personally and professionally.

“I look at the [Victors for Michigan] campaign as being perhaps the most important in the Law School’s history because it is about continuing to produce lawyers who will play a pivotal role in tackling the big issues of our time and the future,” says Shaughnessy, a member of Michigan Law’s Development and Alumni Relations Committee. 

“I want to help the Law School continue to train lawyers who are a step ahead.”