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FAQs

Below are some commonly asked questions and our responses.

Which attorney in the Office of General Counsel should I contact if I need legal assistance?

If you do not currently work with one of our attorneys, you should call the Office of General Counsel’s main number (847-491-5605) and our staff will direct you to the appropriate attorney.

How can I contact the Office of General Counsel?

The Office of General Counsel is located in the Rebecca Crown building, located at 633 Clark Street, Evanston, Illinois 60208. We can be reached by phone at 847-491-5605 or by fax at 847-467-3092.

May I hire an outside attorney for University business?

No. Only the Office of General Counsel may retain outside counsel for matters related to the University.

Can the Office of General Counsel recommend a personal attorney?

The Office of General Counsel does not generally refer employees to private attorneys. Please refer to our Legal Services page for more information.

Who does the Office of General Counsel represent?

The Office of General Counsel provides legal advice and representation to Northwestern University. The University and all of its schools and departments are one legal entity. In that capacity, the Office of General Counsel advises the Trustees, Officers, Faculty, and Staff, all in their official capacities, on various issues impacting the University to reach decisions that are in the best interest of the University. To the extent different areas of the University have different view points on any issue, the President, or if the situation requires, the University’s Board of Trustees have final authority.

Can the Office of General Counsel represent or give legal advice to individual faculty members, students or staff on non-University matters?

No. The Office of General Counsel represents the University and the attorneys work only on University-related matters. Please refer to our Legal Services page for more information.

What should I do if I need something notarized?

Our office can notarize documents including but not limited to contracts, affidavits, and trusts. Contact Michele Ortiz at michele.ortiz@northwestern.edu or 847-467-6270 and she will inform you of the appropriate procedure.

What should I do if I receive a subpoena, summons or court order or if I am contacted by an attorney in connection with University business?

If you receive a subpoena directed to Northwestern University, or related to your work at Northwestern, you should not accept it. You should direct the person attempting to serve the subpoena to the Office of General Counsel at 633 Clark Street on the Evanston campus (847-491-5605).

If you receive a summons or court order, or are contacted by an attorney in connection with University business, you should immediately direct them to or contact the Office of General Counsel (847-491-5605).

Our office will coordinate the appropriate response to such legal inquiries. Under no circumstances should any information be disclosed or University documents be released without prior notification and approval from the Office of General Counsel.

What should I do if I need a contract reviewed, approved and signed?

Faculty and staff regularly receive proposed contracts from various educational institutions, outside agencies, vendors, and other third parties. Most contracts to which the University (or any college, school, department or other subdivision of the University) is a party, should be reviewed by the Office of General Counsel or, under certain circumstances, by University Services, and signed by a University officer – the President, Provost or a Vice President – or a University officer’s duly authorized designee. Signing contracts without the appropriate authority is most likely not within the scope of employment and could, under some circumstances, lead to the person who signed the contract being held personally liable for the contractual obligations.

There are a few exceptions to having the Office of General Counsel review contracts including 1) existing University form contracts which have been preapproved by counsel 2) sponsored research agreements that are reviewed by the Office for Research and Sponsored Programs and 3) most hotel, restaurant and catering contracts.

Call the Office of General Counsel’s main number (847-491-5605) and our staff will inform you of the appropriate procedure.

I am an international student or scholar and I have questions about my visa or immigration status. What should I do?

The International Office will be able to provide you with more information and support. Students and scholars who have issues with their visas -- or anyone concerned -- should contact the International Office. Email intoff@northwestern.edu or call 847-491-5613.

If I make an invention or discovery, whom should I notify?

You should promptly notify the Innovation and New Ventures Office (INVO) by completing and submitting the invention disclosure form.
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