Eluchok balances creativity, practicality in top legal job

Paul Mayne // Western NewsPaul Eluchok began his new role earlier this year as Western’s legal counsel, replacing the retiring Steve Jarrett. Currently, he is focused on mental-health awareness and developing strategies on the “best ways to accommodate students and best ways to help the students who need our help.”

Paul Eluchok recalls his days strolling campus as an undergrad in the early 2000s. Like most students, he was blissfully unaware of the work happening behind the scenes to keep the university moving forward.

Flash forward to today – it’s safe to say the scope of his understanding has grown.

“As a student, I didn’t appreciate all the roles on campus that work together in supporting the academic mission. They were here and behind the scenes,” said the London-born Eluchok, who recently began his new role as University Legal Counsel. “I had a fantastic time as a student. It’s great being able to come back and serve in this role.”

After earning his law degree at Queen’s University, Eluchok returned to London where he began articling at a downtown firm. In 2013, he started at Western as Associate University Secretary and Legal Advisor working with the Secretariat’s Office and then-Legal Counsel Steve Jarrett.

“It was a massive learning curve in understanding how the university functions and how so many different, important areas form one cohesive academic institution,” he said.

Eluchok handled Freedom of Information requests, along with dealing with privacy breaches and compliance issues. Jarret’s retirement allowed him to leap into his latest role on campus.

“This was the next step for me. I was really looking forward to the role. It’s a very complicated job in that you have to be nimble in a variety of different areas of law,” he said.

A ‘regular week’ on the job – if such a thing exists – includes a number of items: from contracts and purchasing agreements, to trademarks and research compliance, to donor agreements and communication issues, to Code of Student Conduct violations and real estate transactions.

“It’s what intrigued me about the role. It’s a variety of different issues and you have to be creative and practical at the same time. I’m here to support the mission and the vision of the university. So it’s not just me coming in and saying ‘No, you can’t do that.’ It’s about finding a way to make things happen.”

Atop Eluchok’s current agenda is the university’s growing focus on mental-health awareness and handling accommodation issues as they arise.

“We have to be proactive and progressive in the handling of mental-health issues. There are competing rights – you want to maintain academic integrity of the programs, but you also have an obligation to accommodate students who are struggling with mental-health issues,” Eluchok said. “We have a duty to address this and develop strategies on the best ways to accommodate students and best ways to help the students who need our help. And it touches everywhere – housing, faculties, departments, administrative support units.”

The mentoring he received from Jarrett over the last five years has helped him move into his role.

“Steve taught me a lot. What I’ve learned from him is a common-sense approach to solutions, because the answer is almost always found using common sense,” he said.

While Eluchok’s duties will not change, the University Legal Counsel will become a separate unit in April, splitting off from the University Secretariat’s office and creating a stronger presence on campus. An associate counsel and administrative support will be added as part of the move.

“What I love about the job is you’re thinking on different problems and coming up with creative solutions – you’re never bored,” he said. “It’s been busy, but at the same time interesting. There’s never a quiet day and no day is boring, and I’m happy about that. I love working here.”