Litigation and legal privilege

The Legal Services Office is responsible for the review and management of all cases where the University institutes or defends proceedings in the courts or other tribunals. This reflects Office for Students guidance on good management which recommends that advice from external solicitors to represent a University in proceedings, or to provide specialist advice, should be sought through the internal legal services section.

The Legal Services Office will advise the University where proceedings are threatened, or where there are thought to be good grounds for instituting proceedings. Such advice will where necessary draw on appropriate specialist counsel or external solicitors and will involve consultation with the University's insurers where required under the terms of the policy. Where external solicitors are instructed, the responsibility of Legal Services Office is then to manage the proceedings in conjunction with the department or division concerned; to monitor the conduct of each case and the costs; to ensure that external representatives have access to all relevant material and to report to Council on matters of difficulty.

No proceedings can be commenced or defended by the University without the approval of the Vice-Chancellor or the Registrar acting under delegated authority. If you become aware of a problem which has a potential for litigation, you should bring the matter to the attention of the Legal Services Office and the University's Insurance Office as soon as possible. The University has an obligation to its insurers to provide early notification of any threatened litigation covered by its insurance policy.

Any threat of legal proceedings should be treated in a confidential manner and some matters are by their nature extremely confidential. You are reminded that internal mail, clearly marked 'confidential', is more secure than email. 

No member or officer of the University should make any response or comment in relation to a threat of litigation which has the potential to compromise the University's position without the advice of the Legal Services Office and/or the University's Insurance Office and, where appropriate, authorisation from the Vice-Chancellor or Registrar. An inappropriate offer or commitment may bind the University in a manner prejudicial to it, and to individuals potentially involved in the proceedings; and may invalidate the University's insurance cover.

In the event that proceedings are threatened, all relevant paperwork and electronic records should be preserved to ensure that full and appropriate advice can be obtained, and to comply with the University's legal duty of disclosure. You should ensure at all times that email communications are restricted to matters which you would be content to see in formal written correspondence.

Legal professional privilege provides protection against disclosure of documents in a broad range of circumstances, including in Court or Tribunal proceedings or following a request from a public authority absent any express exclusion in the applicable legislation. Where written or oral communications are conducted with LSO, and where advice is sought from LSO, the protection of legal professional privilege will apply, provided the communication is handled appropriately.

Key points

  • Where legal advice is received its circulation or reiteration should be restricted.
  • At the outset of a matter consideration should be given to the question of who will be authorised to communicate with LSO for the purpose of obtaining legal advice.
  • Careful file management will help to protect privileged documents. It will sometimes be appropriate for LSO to hold certain files.

Legal advice privilege

This arises where there are communications in confidence between client and lawyer for the giving or receiving of legal advice.

It is necessary to think about who within the University will be the “client” for the purposes of communicating with LSO on any particular matter. Others may still communicate with LSO in relation to the matter but should only do so if authorised by the client.

In the absence of confidentiality there is no privilege. The circulation of legal advice should therefore be restricted.

The purpose of the communication must be for the giving or receiving of legal advice. Merely copying LSO into an email will not give that email or associated matters the protection of privilege.

Legal advice privilege will apply where the advice relates to legal rights, liability, obligations or remedies, but is also likely to extend to presentational advice in a legal context.

Litigation privilege

This applies to communications between client or lawyer and third party, or documents created by client or lawyer, where litigation is contemplated or has commenced, for the dominant purpose of obtaining advice or information in connection with the litigation or assisting in the litigation itself.

Internal discussions once litigation has commenced, or concerning contemplated litigation, will be privileged.

Litigation is contemplated if it is reasonably in prospect. Litigation covers court proceedings, tribunal proceedings, arbitrations and foreign litigation. It does not cover internal procedures.

The dominant purpose of the communication must be for use in actual or contemplated litigation or for obtaining advice from a professional lawyer about actual or contemplated litigation.

Common interest privilege

Where privileged information is voluntarily to be shared with a consortium or other party with whom there is a common interest, advice should be sought from LSO. To protect the privilege:

  1. the common interest should be identified explicitly;
  2. it should be explained to the third party that the advice/document is being provided on a confidential basis and that it is privileged.

Claims Portal - Important Information for Claimant Solicitors

The University of Oxford expects that all related notification of claims from Solicitors or Claimant Representatives will be by means of an electronic Claim Notification Form (CNF) submitted direct to its Insurer through the portal. The following information is provided to assist you in submitting public and employers liability claims directly via the portal:


Public Liability & Employers Liability insurance provider:-


Zurich Municipal Insurance


Zurich Municipal Claims

PO Box 3310

Royal Wootten Bassett



Policy No: NHE NHE-18CA04-0023

Portal Compensator ID: C00108

Contact Us

Legal Services Office

University Offices

Wellington Square