Frequently Asked Questions

What is Princeton University’s legal name, organizational structure, and tax status?

The formal legal name of the University is “The Trustees of Princeton University.” The University is a nonprofit corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of New Jersey. The University is recognized as a tax-exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and its federal tax identification number (EIN) is 21-0634501.

Who can bind the University to transactions with third parties?

University employees, including officers, faculty and staff, may bind the University only if they have been delegated specific authorization to do so. In order to determine which individuals have authority to bind the University, please refer to the University’s Transaction Authority Policy and consult with your supervisor. Students do not have authority to bind the University.

Who does the Office of the General Counsel represent?

OGC provides legal advice and representation to Princeton University, including all its schools, offices and departments. This includes providing advice and counsel to Princeton’s trustees, officers, faculty and staff acting in their official capacities on a variety of issues affecting the University. The office does not and cannot represent individual faculty, staff members or students in personal legal matters outside the scope of University business.

What type of legal services does the OGC provide?

The OGC provides a full range of legal services to the University in a variety of fields, including labor and employment, real estate, corporate governance, student and faculty issues, contracts, intellectual property and tax, among others.

How do I know which OGC attorney to contact?

You may refer to our list of Practice Areas or to the Attorneys and Staff page to assist you in finding the right attorney. If you are still not sure whom to contact, please call the main OGC line at 609-258-2500.

Can University staff with law degrees who are not in the OGC provide legal advice?

No. The Trustees of Princeton University has authorized the General Counsel to serve as the legal adviser to the University. Only attorneys in the Office of the General Counsel can provide legal advice and representation to Princeton University.

Will the OGC represent me if I am sued?

The OGC may represent you directly or through counsel engaged by the University if you are sued in your official capacity as a University employee. The OGC cannot provide legal advice or representation to students, employees or others related to personal matters. An OGC attorney may be able to refer you to an outside attorney.

Can I retain outside counsel for a University matter?

No. University personnel should not contact outside counsel concerning University business without first consulting the Office of the General Counsel. Only the OGC can retain and approve compensation for outside counsel on behalf of the University. If you believe outside counsel is needed for a University matter, you should contact the OGC. An OGC attorney will evaluate the matter and determine whether outside counsel is necessary or appropriate. If so, the OGC attorney will retain outside counsel with the required expertise. 

What should I do if someone tries to serve me with legal documents?

You cannot accept service of legal documents on behalf of the University. If a process server attempts to serve you with documents, you should politely decline and direct him or her to the OGC. If you are served documents that name you personally in your official capacity, notify the OGC immediately and forward the documents to this office. You may wish to keep a copy for your records. The OGC will review the documents, determine what steps are necessary and discuss your involvement with you, if any.

It is the policy of the University to require legal service of a properly issued subpoena from any person or government office seeking information from Princeton University.  In this regard, all subpoenas relating to the University should be served at the Office of the General Counsel. For more information about subpoenas, see Subpoenas-Useful Information and Princeton's policies.

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

What is a legal hold?

Under federal and state law, Princeton University has a duty to identify and preserve records that relate to pending or reasonably anticipated litigation or other legal or administrative proceedings involving the University. A legal hold is a notification sent from the Office of the General Counsel to University employees, agents, or representatives instructing them not to delete electronically stored information (ESI) or discard hard copy documents that may be relevant. A legal hold notice means you may have relevant information and does not necessarily mean that you are directly involved in the legal action.

Are my communications with the OGC attorneys confidential?

Communications that Princeton University faculty and staff have with the OGC attorneys, made in confidence, for the purpose of seeking or giving legal advice concerning Princeton University matters, are protected by the attorney-client privilege from disclosure to third parties, but may be shared with other University officials who have a need to know. However, we will make every effort to keep communications confidential to the extent possible. If you have any questions or concerns about the confidentiality of a particular conversation, you should ask the OGC attorney before the conversation begins.

How do I report unethical and illegal behavior?

Princeton University has selected EthicsPoint, an independent provider of hotline services, to provide you with a simple and confidential way to report concerns that may involve possible noncompliance with government or external agency regulations, related University policies, errors or irregularities in Princeton's financial accounting practices, and unethical behavior. In addition, all members of the University faculty and staff who suspect or observe potentially illegal activity are responsible for reporting their concerns immediately. See the Reporting Potentially Illegal Activity Policy for more information.

To whom should I report suspected child abuse?

Under New Jersey Law, “Any person having reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to child abuse or acts of child abuse shall report the same immediately to DCF's Child Protection and Permanency (CP&P) by telephone or otherwise. Such reports, where possible, shall contain the names and addresses of the child and his parent, guardian, or other person having custody and control of the child and, if known, the child's age, the nature and possible extent of the child's injuries, abuse or maltreatment, including any evidence of previous injuries, abuse or maltreatment, and any other information that the person believes may be helpful with respect to the child abuse and the identity of the perpetrator.”

The website of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families provides information on how and when to report child abuse, definitions of terms such as “abused child,” and resources available.

What should I do if I receive a call or letter from an outside attorney?

If you are contacted by an attorney in connection with University business or your work for the University, please notify the OGC immediately. The OGC will work with you to determine what steps are necessary. Please do not speak or correspond directly with an attorney representing someone outside the University who is engaged in or threatening a lawsuit. If an employee learns of facts which may lead to a claim or lawsuit being filed against the University, the employee should immediately report the matter to the OGC.

What if I need a document notarized?

The Office of the General Counsel provides notary services for Princeton University faculty, staff and students. These services are free of charge.  Please bring unsigned original document(s) and identification during regular weekday office hours from 9am to 4:30pm. Proper identification includes a current and valid government-issued driver’s license, passport, or unexpired Princeton University TigerCard. 

How can I contact the OGC?

The OGC is located in the New South Building, Fourth Floor. We can be reached by phone at 609-258-2500, or by fax at 609-258-2502.

What should I do if I am contacted by law enforcement personnel?

Law enforcement personnel sometimes approach Princeton University students, faculty, and staff to ask to speak with them for a variety of reasons, including, for example, to obtain factual information pertinent to an ongoing investigation, to ask about an individual who is undergoing a background check in connection with government employment or a security clearance,  or  to learn about countries or technologies of interest.  The following details your rights if you are contacted by a federal agent.