Alumnus Jeff Boyd serves as general counsel in the Office of the Governor of Texas.
In his new post as general counsel to Texas Governor Rick Perry, alumnus Jeffrey S. Boyd (JD ’91) deals with matters of life and death. One of his many tasks as general counsel is to advise the governor on all executions in the state of Texas. With so much at stake, Boyd evaluates each case and presents his findings to the governor who can then make an informed decision on whether to delay the execution or grant clemency in spite of the jury’s capital punishment conviction.
“We review each file very carefully,” says Boyd of the process he and his team of six assistant general counsels undertake. Since Boyd took office in January, he has already been presented with this difficult situation three times. The state went through with two executions while another case was stayed twice.
In addition to the death penalty cases, Boyd advises the governor on a range of different issues, including pending legislation. “My job is to make sure that the governor and others who work for him have the best legal advice to make the difficult policy decisions,” he explains. “The governor is a politician in the sense of being a policy maker. He has a lot of influence on the policy decisions that the legislature is currently making in session, and all the policy choices involve legal issues.”
Boyd got the call from Governor Rick Perry in December, while practicing as a senior partner at Thompson & Knight LLP. “When the governor calls you and asks you to do something like this, you can’t say no,” he says, before referring to his previous foray into public service as deputy attorney general for civil litigation for then-attorney general (now U.S. Senator) John Cornyn.
“I enjoyed being involved in these exciting and important issues when I worked for General Cornyn, so there was that part of me that just wanted to do it.”
Boyd took his post as general counsel just one week before the legislative session began. The Texas legislature meets for 140 days every other year, so Boyd hit the ground running. He says, “There are a lot of new issues and topics in this office that I’ve never had to address before, so that has been a challenge that I’ve had to come up to speed on.”
Fortunately, Boyd’s strengths play to this work, which is something he learned back in law school at Pepperdine. “Law school was really interesting because I was able to use my brains and skills as if that was what they were made for,” he reflects.
A nontraditional law student, Boyd had a desire to help others early on. He worked as a youth and family minister in Texas for five years after graduating from Abilene Christian University in 1983. When he felt pulled toward the legal field, he and his wife Jackie moved to California so he could attend Pepperdine. “Pepperdine was the place where I really found that my calling was in the law,” Boyd remembers of the environment and relationships forged with professors.
Immediately after law school, he clerked for Judge Thomas Reavley on the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. He began his career at Thompson & Knight LLP in 1992, where he transitioned to helping others in a different way. In addition to his work at the firm, Boyd served as president and board member of Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas and as chair and board member of Goodwill Industries of Central Texas. “Once I got out of law school and was making money, I still felt like it was important to give back and that I need to do things to contribute to my community,” he explains.
Where his career will take him from here remains to be seen, but today, Boyd’s main concern is serving the governor and the people of Texas to best of his ability. He concludes, “My goal is to make sure that the governor has the best legal advice on which to base his decisions.”