Frequently Asked Questions

Who does the Office of the General Counsel represent?

OGC provides legal advice and representation to the University of St. Thomas, which is a legal entity. OGC attorneys advise and represent the St. Thomas president, other administrators, faculty, staff, student employees and the Board of Trustees to the extent these individuals are acting in their official work capacities on behalf of St. Thomas.

Will the Office of General Counsel provide faculty, staff or students with assistance or advice on a personal legal matter?

No. OGC represents the university and does not represent employees or students in personal matters. We can only provide you with assistance and advice on matters that directly involve the university, where you are acting on the university’s behalf.

Can I retain outside counsel for a university matter?

Not directly. OGC attorneys are responsible for retaining outside legal counsel, establishing the terms of legal engagements, and managing the university’s legal expenditures. As part of our responsibilities, we also monitor and manage potential conflicts of interest regarding legal matters, which may not be known to you and may affect which counsel we hire for particular matters.

OGC has identified a group of outside counsel who have the relevant expertise in the legal matters that arise for St. Thomas and individual schools, colleges and other units. If there is a decision to engage outside counsel and there is a particular attorney or firm you prefer to hire, OGC will work with you to determine whether they can be added to our group of approved counsel.

If you require legal advice or assistance in connection with your work, or you think you may benefit from legal advice or assistance but are not sure, contact OGC and we will work with you to determine whether internal or external counsel is in the best position to assist you. If a decision is made to engage external counsel, OGC will retain the outside attorney to work with you.

What should I do if someone arrives at my office with a subpoena, search warrant or other legal document directed to St. Thomas?

Decline to accept the papers, direct the person to OGC, and contact OGC as soon as possible to alert us. Only the general counsel and president are authorized to accept service of process on behalf of St. Thomas, and OGC manages the university's response to subpoenas, search warrants and other legal demands for information.

What do I do if my office receives a subpoena or other legal document in the mail that is directed at the University?

Contact OGC and forward the document to OGC as soon as possible. OGC manages the university's response to subpoenas, warrants and similar legal information requests, in coordination with records managers across the university. Many legal documents are time-sensitive with legal consequences to St. Thomas if a response is not timely submitted.

What should I do if a lawyer calls and wants to speak to me about a legal matter involving an employee, student or the university?

If a lawyer other than an OGC attorney or someone we have engaged to assist you calls you to discuss a legal matter, direct the lawyer to contact OGC, and contact OGC as soon as possible to let us know. Do not discuss any pending or potential lawsuits, claims, threats or legal matters with outside attorneys unless you are directed to do so by OGC. 

When it relates to a St. Thomas matter, an outside attorney should not speak directly to you without prior consent from an OGC attorney. Attorneys who work for others have a professional responsibility not to contact you directly about St. Thomas matters if they know that St. Thomas is represented by legal counsel.

Will St. Thomas provide me with legal representation if a lawsuit is filed against me?

If you are named as a defendant in a lawsuit that relates to St. Thomas and you have not been working on the matter with OGC already, contact OGC as soon as possible. In these situations, St. Thomas generally provides legal representation to employees who were working within their scope of employment and in good faith compliance with applicable laws and university policies.

Will I be indemnified if I am sued in connection with university business?

Generally, yes, as long as you were and are acting in good faith and in the scope of your St. Thomas job responsibilities.

Is what I tell you confidential?

Employee communications with an OGC attorney generally will be covered by the attorney-client privilege as to parties outside the university, but not as to other St. Thomas employees who have a need to know the information in connection with OGC’s legal advice and representation. However, we work to maintain the confidentiality of information you share with us to the extent possible, consistent with the duties and responsibilities of our positions at St. Thomas.

Who is authorized to sign contracts and other legal documents on behalf of St. Thomas?

Limited individuals at the University of St. Thomas are authorized to sign contracts and other legal documents:

  • For most contracts to purchase goods and services, authorized signatories are the associate vice president for procurement services and the chief financial officer/vice president for business affairs.
  • For most other contracts, authorized signatories are the executive vice president and provost (for contracts arising in areas that ultimately report to the executive vice president and provost) or the chief financial officer/vice president for business affairs (for contracts arising in other areas), or others to whom they have delegated signature authority in writing.
  • Various senior leaders have signature authority for other kinds of legal documents, such as offer letters, certifications, trademark and patent applications, intellectual property licenses, and cease and desist letters.

Signature authority typically is limited to specific areas of responsibility, types of documents and financial thresholds. Signature authority may be limited in other ways, as well.

It is important to remember that even if a contract or other legal document is initiated or managed by a school, college or department, the contract or other document legally binds the University of St. Thomas and not the individual school, college or department. Accordingly, the contract or other document must be signed by an authorized signatory of the university, which typically is someone outside of the school, college or department.

Please check with your supervisor or the President’s Senior Staff member for your area to determine who has authority to sign a particular contract or document you need executed. If they are not certain, OGC can help determine the appropriate signatory.

May I use the university’s name, logos or other trademarks for non-university purposes? Where do I get permission to use them?

St. Thomas employees and students may use the St. Thomas name in accordance with the university's Intellectual Property Policy. The policy permits employees and students to use the St. Thomas name for private purposes to identify yourself as a current or former St. Thomas employee or student. In addition, employees may use the St. Thomas name, logos, team names, or other trademarks for purposes of carrying out St. Thomas business and work responsibilities, and students may use them in connection with the approved activities of recognized student clubs and organizations. If you wish to use the St. Thomas name, logos, nicknames, or other trademarks for other reasons, whether personal or commercial, you must receive advance permission by contacting brand@stthomas.edu. Depending on the circumstances, you may be required to enter into a licensing agreement with St. Thomas.