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About the office

What we do

  • Provide general oversight and advice for all contracts, grants, MOUs, agreements, purchases, and orders.
  • Receive and investigate inquiries and complaints from WHOI faculty, administrators, employees and students, including, but not limited to, matters relating to tax law, labor law, insurance, risk management, patents and copyrights, delinquent fees, contracts and WHOI policies.
  • Legal review of labor, employment, and sexual harassment and complaint issues.
  • Coordinate activities and actions with outside counsel retained to represent WHOI.
  • Serve on WHOI committees to provide recommendations regarding applicable legal matters.

Our representation

The Office of Legal Affairs and General Counsel ("OGC") represents WHOI and may not represent individual students, faculty, or staff except when these individuals are named as defendants in litigation as a result of actions or omissions within the course and scope of their employment or institutional representation.

The OGC does not "approve" contracts, nor does it sign contracts on WHOI’s behalf.

Requests for legal assistance should be directed to Diane McCarthy, or ext. 2502.

Communications with OGC attorneys regarding WHOI legal matters are ordinarily protected by the attorney-client privilege. The attorney-client privilege protects the confidentiality of communications between attorneys and their clients about legal matters. The privilege is limited to confidential communications to or from OGC attorneys or outside counsel retained to represent WHOI for the purpose of seeking legal advice regarding WHOI legal matters, whether oral, written, or electronic, are protected from disclosure to parties outside WHOI. Communication between administrators concerning legal matters would typically not be privileged because, for the privilege to exist, the communications must be to, from, or with an attorney. In addition, the communication must be for the purpose of requesting or receiving legal advice. Because of professional rules of ethics, the OGC cannot provide legal advice to students or other WHOI community members in connection with personal legal affairs or questions. For personal legal advice, faculty, employees, students, and all others in WHOI community should consult a private attorney.

Further, the OGC represents WHOI as an institution, and institutional interest of WHOI not individuals or individual employees. When a WHOI attorney interviews or communicates with an employee or scientific staff about a WHOI matter, the employee or scientific staff member should understand that the attorney may disclose to other WHOI personnel, or to others if authorized by the WHOI, the content of the communication to the extent that the attorney deems it appropriate to protect or promote the WHOI’s interest. In most circumstances, the interests of the WHOI and its employees and scientific staff will be congruent. It is then appropriate for a WHOI attorney to represent an individual faculty or staff member at the same time the attorney represents the WHOI. Employee or scientific staff should be aware, however, that if it develops that the WHOI’s interests come into conflict in a material way with those of the employee, the attorney and WHOI would have to withdraw from representation of the employee.