Legal Affairs Staff
Thomas C. Shanahan
Senior Vice President and General Counsel | 919-962-4588
Mr. Shanahan serves as the senior legal officer for the 17-campus University of North Carolina System and oversees the Division of Governance, Legal, and Risk at the UNC System Office. He oversees advice, counsel, regulatory, and litigation matters on behalf of the president, the Board of Governors, and the senior officers of the University. He also oversees and integrates the functions and services of the Office of Legal Affairs; Internal Audit; the Office of Compliance and Audit Services; and Campus Safety and Emergency Operations. The cross-functional team within the Division of Governance, Legal, and Risk is responsible for the development and support of UNC System compliance and risk management programs, and the integration of legal and regulatory considerations into the system’s strategies and objectives.
Before becoming the senior vice president and general counsel in 2013, Mr. Shanahan served as the associate vice president for legal affairs where he was responsible for providing legal advice and counsel across the system in the areas of employment law, employee benefits, administrative law, and a variety of higher education law matters.
Mr. Shanahan joined the University after nearly a decade with the U.S. Department of Labor where his legal background included trial litigation and legal advice concerning employee benefits law, defensive labor and employment matters, ethics, and administrative law. During his time with the Labor Department, Mr. Shanahan’s leadership positions included service as the deputy regional solicitor for the southeast in the Solicitor’s Office, and as deputy regional director for the southeast region of the Employee Benefits Security Administration.
Mr. Shanahan received his JD from the University of Georgia School of Law and his BS from Cornell University.
Joanna Carey Cleveland
Vice President for Legal Affairs and Deputy General Counsel | 919-962-0533
Ms. Cleveland assists the senior vice president and general counsel in establishing priorities and agendas for the Office of Legal Affairs and co-manages the day-to-day responsibilities of the office. She practices primarily in the areas of anti-discrimination, athletics, constitutional law, human resources, legislative affairs, litigation management, records management (including public records), shared services, student issues, and university policy development. She also coordinates externship and fellowship opportunities for law students and recent law graduates.
Prior to joining the UNC System in 2014, Ms. Cleveland spent nearly 20 years in the Office of University Counsel at UNC-Chapel Hill as an assistant university counsel and associate university counsel working in many of these same areas. In addition to her current duties, Ms. Cleveland is an adjunct professor at the UNC School of Law where she teaches “Legal Issues in Higher Education,” as well as an adjunct instructor at the School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill. She has previously served as a fixed-term graduate faculty member in the Graduate School (Department of Exercise and Sport Science) at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Ms. Cleveland received her JD, MPA, and BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Michael R. Delafield
Associate General Counsel | 919-962-6162
Mr. Delafield serves as associate general counsel and concentrates his practice in the areas of academic and student affairs, campus safety and security, and data security. Mr. Delafield also serves as the chair of the State Residence Committee. In addition, Mr. Delafield serves as the primary legal counsel for the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, a public residential high school focusing on STEM education, which became a constituent institution of the University in 2007.
Before coming to UNC in 2012, Mr. Delafield worked for nine years at a law firm representing local boards of education across the state of North Carolina, where he earned a deep respect for those working to improve the lives of North Carolinians through public education. Before entering the field of education law, Mr. Delafield worked for a short time as a bankruptcy attorney.
Mr. Delafield received his JD from the University of Maine School of Law, and his BA from Princeton University.
Carolyn C. Pratt
Associate General Counsel | 919-962-3406
Ms. Pratt serves as associate general counsel at the UNC System Office, focusing her practice in the areas of employment law and litigation. A litigator with ten years of experience, Ms. Pratt advises and supports the Attorney General’s office in the defense of cases in which the Board of Governors and/or one or more of the University’s constituent institutions or officials are named defendants. This work includes consulting on matters of litigation strategy; reviewing pleadings, motions, and briefs; and coordinating and assisting with legal research and discovery. Ms. Pratt also advises University officers and employees with respect to human resources and employment law compliance matters, as well as helps coordinate the UNC System Office’s responses to requests for public records made under the North Carolina Public Records Act.
Ms. Pratt is a proud two-time graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, receiving both her undergraduate (BA in political science) and law degrees there. While in law school, Ms. Pratt served on the student Honor Court, was the Articles & Notes Editor of the North Carolina First Amendment Law Review, and worked as both a teaching assistant and research assistant. After law school, Ms. Pratt worked as a law clerk for the Honorable Martha A. Geer at the North Carolina Court of Appeals; as a litigator for Cranfill, Sumner, & Hartzog, LLP; and for the Education and Employment law team at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, LLP.
T. Brooks Skinner
Associate General Manager and General Counsel| 919-549-7806 (UNC-TV)
Mr. Skinner serves as associate general manager and as the general counsel for the University of North Carolina Center for Public Television (UNC-TV). Mr. Skinner supervises all finance, human resources, and technology functions at UNC-TV, and advises the general manager on operational matters across the UNC-TV organization. In his role as UNC-TV general counsel, Mr. Skinner provides comprehensive legal and policy advice in all aspects of network operations. Mr. Skinner is also a member of the Office of Legal Affairs, serving as the in-house counsel for UNC-TV.
Mr. Skinner received his JD from the University of North Carolina School of Law and his BA from North Carolina Wesleyan College.
Assistant General Counsel | 919-962-0444
Ms. Bishop serves as assistant general counsel at the UNC System Office, providing legal counsel to the constituent institutions on U.S. immigration law matters and operates a shared services pilot program through which she provides direct representation of participating constituent institutions regarding employment-based immigration nonimmigrant and immigrant sponsorship.
Ms. Bishop joined the UNC System in 2010 after working for six years in private practice at a boutique immigration law firm. Prior to private practice, Ms. Bishop served as a law clerk for the Honorable Linda McGee on the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
Ms. Bishop received her JD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her BA degree from the University of Virginia.
Carrie O. Johnston
Assistant General Counsel | 919-445-0473
Ms. Johnstonserves as assistant general counsel with the UNC System. Ms. Johnston primarily provides legal advice in the areas of business affairs, student affairs, university and P-12 education policy and partnerships, campus safety and security, and anti-discrimination law. She also coordinates externship opportunities for law students within the Office of Legal Affairs.
Ms. Johnston joined the UNC System Office in 2012. Prior to attending law school, Ms. Johnston served as a Teach For America corps member in Baltimore, Maryland, where she taught first and third grades in a high-need school. Following her corps member commitment, she served as a member of Teach For America’s staff.
Ms. Johnston received her BA in urban studies from Rhodes College, MA in teaching from Johns Hopkins University, and JD from Elon University School of Law.
Staff Counsel | 919-962-4588
Mr. Doughertyserves as staff counsel within the Office of Legal Affairs at the University of North Carolina System Office. Mr. Dougherty provides advice and counsel to System Office and UNC constituent institution colleagues on a variety of legal issues, including constitutional law, university governance, campus safety, employment law, information security and privacy, open meetings, and public records.
Mr. Dougherty began his work at the UNC System Office as a Higher Education Law Fellow in 2014. During law school, Mr. Dougherty served as an Articles Editor and contributed an article for the North Carolina Journal of Law & Technology, and worked within the University of Vermont Office of General Counsel and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Athletics.
Mr. Dougherty is a North Carolina native and proud graduate of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. Mr. Dougherty earned his BA in journalism and environmental studies, MA in sport administration, and JD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Chavez R. Adams
Legal Fellow | 919-962-4588
Mr. Adams serves as the Higher Education Law Fellow in the Office of Legal Affairs at the UNC System, where he provides legal analysis and advice on a diverse array of issues affecting the University. He reviews and negotiates contracts, ensures that the policies of the constituent institutions comply with the UNC Policy Manual, prepares detailed legal memoranda, and drafts faculty appeal reports.
Mr. Adams has served as a law clerk at Microsoft Corporation, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the Office of Chairman Wheeler, and Allstate Insurance Company. He also has served as a Student Attorney in the Howard University School of Law Intellectual Property Clinic, where he worked with clients to ensure their federal trademarks were properly filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Prior to law school, Mr. Adams worked as an intern in the United States House of Representatives and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), Inc.
Mr. Adams earned his JD from the Howard University School of Law and his BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a McNair Scholar.
Karin F. Szypszak
Legal Projects Director | 919-962-4587
Ms. Szypszak has a variety of responsibilities, including administering the University's faculty grievance/appeal process; maintaining UNC System EBS licenses; assisting with issues brought before the Umstead Review Panel; coordinating records retention within the Office of Legal Affairs; preparing relevant materials for the president and Board of Governors in response to litigation; administering amendments to the UNC Policy Manual; performing legal research for attorneys in the Office of Legal Affairs; researching and tracking legislative activity related to university-system issues; drafting and reviewing contracts, licenses, and other legal documents; serving as the webmaster for the Office of Legal Affairs; serving as a member and administering the State Residence Committee; and providing relevant guidance and legal information in response to requests from the public, UNC System, the Board of Governors, and the campuses.
With over 30 years’ experience as a paralegal, Ms. Szypszak started her legal career at the University of Virginia law school, continuing on to be a paralegal for the city solicitor in Concord, New Hampshire for 19 years. After relocating to North Carolina, she worked as an intellectual property paralegal until being hired in 2006 as paralegal to the senior vice president and general counsel at the UNC System.
Ms. Szypszak has a BS in education from the University of Southern California, and was certified to teach grades K-12 in the State of California. She also completed a two-year paralegal studies certificate program from the University of New Hampshire, and was awarded a certified paralegal designation after passing the National Association of Legal Assistants-Paralegals’ (NALA) exam.
Ruth A. Brill
Executive Assistant to the Senior Vice President and General Counsel | 919-962-4588
Ms. Brill serves as the Executive Assistant to the Senior Vice President and General Counsel in the Division of Governance, Legal, and Risk. Her duties include administrative support for the senior vice president and general counsel, the vice president for legal affairs and deputy general counsel, and several other associate and assistant general counsels for legal affairs.
Ms. Brill started with the UNC System in June 2003 in Academic Affairs as the assistant to the assistant to the senior vice president for Academic Affairs. In 2005, she moved to Human Resources, and was promoted to the Office of Legal Affairs in 2008. Prior to joining the UNC System Office, Ms. Brill worked for almost 10 years at Bromma, Inc., a manufacturing company in Roxboro, NC. Her other experience includes working in Pittsburgh, PA at Yanni-Bilkey Investment Consulting, an investment firm for two years, and Mine Safety Appliances Company, a safety equipment manufacturing company for 11 years.
In 1981, Ms. Brill received her AD in Secretarial Science. In 2010, she also attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Accelerated Paralegal Program at the Friday Center to earn her Paralegal Certificate and designation as a North Carolina Certified Paralegal (NCCP).
Ms. Brill also serves on the Health and Safety Committee at the UNC System Office. In her spare time, she has been volunteering with the Roxboro-Person County Rescue Squad since 1999, and served as the secretary until 2018. Ms. Brill has also earned the Emergency Rescue Technician (ERT) designation in Person County in 2001.
Paulette J. Stroman
Executive Assistant | 919-843-6997
Ms. Stroman serves as executive assistant in the Division of Governance, Legal, and Risk and provides administrative support for the senior vice president and general counsel, vice president for legal affairs and deputy general counsel, vice president for compliance and audit services, the associate vice president for safety and emergency operations, and other associate and assistant general counsels in the Office of Legal Affairs. Ms. Stroman also serves as the administrative support for the UNC Board of Governors Committee on Audit, Risk Management, and Compliance.
Ms. Stroman has more than 15 years of experience with the University of North Carolina. She has worked at the UNC System since November 2016, and previously worked at UNC-Chapel Hill as a public records paralegal in the Office of University Communications, as a paralegal and business services coordinator in the Office of University Counsel, and as the administrative assistant to the Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine.
Prior to joining the University, Ms. Stroman served as manager of tariffs and contracts at a global shipping and logistics company in New Jersey, where she worked for more than eight years.
Ms. Stroman received her BS in administration of criminal justice at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a post-baccalaureate certificate in paralegal studies in 2011 through the UNC-Chapel Hill Paralegal Certificate Program.