FAQs

Who does the General Counsel represent?

The General Counsel provides legal advice and representation to St. Olaf College. This includes providing advice and counsel to regents, officers, administrators, faculty, and staff acting in their official capacities on a variety of issues affecting the college. Students who are engaging in activities on behalf of the college (e.g., communicating with vendors who are seeking to enter into a contract with St. Olaf College), may also obtain advice and counsel. The General Counsel does not and cannot represent individuals, including faculty, staff, administrators or students, in personal legal matters outside the scope of college business.

What types of legal services does the General Counsel provide?

The General Counsel provides a full range of legal services to St. Olaf in a variety of substantive areas including student services, staff and faculty employment, real estate, corporate governance, contracts, advancement/planned giving, intellectual property, and tax.

Will the college represent me if I am sued?

The college will indemnify St. Olaf staff and faculty who are sued in their “official capacity” (i.e., as a result of the work they perform on the college’s behalf). The college’s obligation to indemnify staff and faculty, and the limitations on this obligation, are provided in Minnesota law governing certain tax exempt organizations like St. Olaf College.  Further information about this law can be found in Minnesota Statute 317A.521.

Can I retain outside counsel to assist with a college matter?

No. Staff or faculty may not incur legal expenses from an outside attorney concerning St. Olaf business without first consulting the General Counsel. Only the General Counsel may retain and approve retaining outside counsel on behalf of the college. If you believe outside counsel is needed, please contact the General Counsel who will evaluate the matter.  If the General Counsel determines that retaining outside counsel is appropriate, the General Counsel will retain outside counsel with the required expertise and manage their representation of the college.

What should I do if someone is attempting to serve me with a subpoena, lawsuit or other legal documents?

You are not authorized to accept service of legal documents on behalf of St. Olaf College. If a process server attempts to serve you with documents, you should decline to accept receipt of the documents and direct the individual to the General Counsel. If you are served documents that name you personally in your official capacity, notify the General Counsel immediately and forward the documents to this office. You may wish to keep a copy for your records. The General Counsel will review the documents and determine what follow up action is necessary. If your continued involvement is needed, you will be notified.

If you are served with a subpoena or other legal document addressed to you concerning a non-St. Olaf matter, you should seek the advice of private attorney.

Can I sign a contract on behalf of St. Olaf College?

No, only individuals who have been explicitly authorized to sign contracts on behalf of the college may do so. Even if your duties include purchasing goods and services on St. Olaf’s behalf, that does not provide you signing authority to execute contracts. Most contracts are reviewed by the General Counsel and signed by the Chief Financial Officer. For further information, please consult the Contract Review and Approval Process.

Are my communications with the General Counsel confidential?

Communications with the General Counsel that involve seeking, obtaining or providing legal advice on the college’s behalf are protected by an attorney/client privilege. They are confidential. The privilege over these conversations belongs to the college. You may not disclose the advice you receive unless you are authorized to do so. The college may share information with other college personnel or representatives without waiving the privilege. If you have any questions or concerns about the confidentiality of a particular conversation, you should review these concerns with the General Counsel before discussing the information.

What should I do if I am contacted by an attorney?

If you are contacted by an attorney in connection with any college business, you should immediately advise the attorney that St. Olaf is represented by legal counsel, and has a General Counsel responsible for coordinating communications on legal matters involving the college. Please provide the attorney with the contact information for the General Counsel’s office. Do not speak or correspond further with the attorney without authorization from the General Counsel. After communicating this information to the attorney, please contact the General Counsel and provide whatever information you have regarding the identity, contact information of the attorney, and the nature of the matter about which you were contacted.

The forgoing does not apply if the attorney is your own legal counsel. If you have retained an attorney relating to a college matter, or relating to some aspect of your work for the college, you may speak with this person and there is no expectation that you will include the college’s General Counsel. If you have engaged an attorney, you are not authorized to disclose student education records, employee personnel records, attorney/client privileged communications or any other confidential information.  

How should I report concerns relating to legal issues?

When in doubt, you should always report issues involving campus safety concerns, known or suspected violations of legal obligations or college policies, or any other unethical conduct. Depending on the specific issue there are various individuals on campus responsible for receiving reports. If you are uncertain where to report, you are always welcome to forward concerns to the General Counsel. If you wish to report a concern anonymously, the college participates in Campus Conduct Hotline, a third-party reporting service that can ensure that your concerns are transmitted to the college anonymously. For further information on when and how to report, see the Policy on Reporting Concerns to the college.

What if I need a document notarized?

The General Counsel provides notary services to faculty, staff, and students free of charge. Please contact Jennifer Whitson at whitson@stolaf.edu or 507-786-3000 to make an appointment. Proper identification includes a current and valid government issued driver’s license, passport, or current Ole Card.

The information and materials on this website provide general information. Nothing contained herein shall be construed or relied upon as a contract or as legal advice. The Office of the General Counsel is available to assist with St. Olaf College-related legal matters. The General Counsel represents the College only, and cannot provide legal advice to students, staff, faculty or other community members on personal matters.