As Washington and Lee University's (the "University") in-house legal officers, the attorneys in the Office of General Counsel advise the President, the Board of Trustees, its officers, administrators, and authorized agents and representatives of the University on all legal matters pertaining to their University responsibilities. The Office of General Counsel is responsible for providing legal representation, preventative legal advice and review, and legal opinions in all areas of law relating to the University's operations and its mission.
The Office of General Counsel performs a wide variety of legal services. These include advising University officials on regulatory compliance and other legal aspects of their duties; representing the University in litigation and overseeing outside counsel in the limited circumstances where specific legal expertise is necessary; advising on risk areas through ongoing enterprise risk management work; preparing and negotiating contracts between the University and other entities; and advising various student and University Committees and judicial bodies.
We believe that an effective general counsel's office does not merely respond when consulted. Rather, through close communication with faculty and staff, the Office seeks to keep abreast of the University's programmatic goals, and takes proactive steps to help achieve those goals before legal issues become legal problems.
The General Counsel reports to the University's President and Board of Trustees.
The Office of General Counsel is committed to practicing and promoting core values of civility, integrity, inclusiveness and respect. We are also committed to providing timely and high quality legal services on behalf of the University and its representatives.
Whom does the Office of General Counsel represent?
The University's Office of General Counsel represents the legal interests of the University itself. In practice, this generally involves giving advice to the President, the Board of Trustees, the deans and members of the administration, student judicial bodies and faculty committees on legal risks associated with various University operations and programs, acting as a resource to administrators and committees in the development and interpretation of University policies, reviewing contracts to be signed on behalf of the University, and providing support to University administrators for ongoing compliance initiatives, among other things.
Can I obtain personal legal advice and services from the Office of General Counsel?
While we may be able to refer you to a local attorney, the attorneys of the Office of General Counsel do not provide personal legal services to University students or employees in their individual capacities.
What is the "attorney-client privilege?"
The attorney client-privilege encourages full disclosure by protecting the confidentiality of communications between lawyers and their clients. Thus, written and oral communications that University faculty and staff have with attorneys in the Office of General Counsel for the purpose of obtaining legal advice may be protected from disclosure to third parties in the course of a legal proceeding. Note that not all communications qualify for the attorney-client privilege: for example, the mere presence of an attorney at a meeting without the provision of legal advice is not sufficient. Furthermore, the privilege can be lost if the subject matter is discussed with anyone who does not need to know.
For examples of when the attorney-client privilege applies and doesn't apply and how to best protect communications with the Office of General Counsel, see the OGC Attorney-Client Privilege Primer.
The Office of General Counsel provides notarial services. Please contact Penny Patterson ((540-458-8940) or firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for document notarization.