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Chris Land Joins WHOI as General Counsel and VP for Legal Affairs

February 28, 2014

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has appointed Christopher Land to be its General Counsel and Vice President for Legal Affairs. Land assumes his post on March 3.  

As general counsel, Land will provide advice, opinions and representation on all areas of law affecting the Institution. Among his duties will be engaging in Institution strategy and business development; providing counsel and advice concerning compliance with federal and state statutes and regulations affecting research and higher education organizations; and negotiating, drafting and reviewing contracts.

“We’re very excited to bring Chris aboard. He will bring new dimension to our strategic thinking, helping us to look at risk and resilience in pro-active ways,” said WHOI President and Director Susan Avery. “He understands how research institutions work, works well with scientists, and understands research and technology.  It’s a great match.”

A 2002 graduate, order of the coif and cum laude, of Tulane Law School, Land has been a senior attorney with the firm Goodwin Procter of Boston where he represented clients in various industries, including pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, power and energy companies, and academic and research institutions, including WHOI.

 “I enjoy the strategic aspects of business—using my legal training to break down facts, policies and issues, analyze them, and then put them back together in new ways that makes sense,” said Land. “I think this adds value to the academic and business perspectives at an organization.”

Over the past three years, Land has served as an outside general counsel for WHOI through his work with Goodwin Proctor.  Land’s first big project with WHOI involved the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and a subpoena seeking emails, draft papers, and other documents from two WHOI scientists involved in the spill’s response effort.  He helped WHOI argue that the documents were protected under the First Amendment, and specifically that Scholastic Privilege protects academics during the pre-publication phase of their work so that they may have the internal academic discussions on draft scientific publications necessary before finalizing their findings.

During that case, Land found he enjoyed interacting with WHOI scientists, using their ideals and research mission as guideposts for strategies in developing a legal response.  “I’ve always had an affinity for science,” said Land. “I enjoy translating technical issues and explaining the underlying issues for non-scientific audiences.”

Land joins WHOI in a newly created position at a time when the Institution is increasingly seeking new revenue streams from non-traditional sources, including opportunities within the for-profit sector. “Chris will augment a number of other key staff and provide us with a firm stance in dealing with intellectual property, human resource, real estate, safety, at-sea operations and other issues across the Institution,” said Avery.

A native of Newport Beach, Calif., Land was raised “surfing and swimming in the ocean every day,” he said, and developed an early passion for sailing, racing sail boats by age 10 and is currently preparing for his third Newport-Bermuda offshore race.  Working for a sea-going research organization, he combines his profession and his affinity for nature, learning and the ocean. Land will relocate to Cape Cod from Marblehead, Mass.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, independent organization on Cape Cod, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment. For more information, please visit