Conflict of Interest

All Law School faculty are subject to the conflict of interest and conflict of commitment policies of the University. The Law School is responsible for monitoring compliance and the following are the Law School's guidelines for implementing those policies:

Access the Northwestern University Policy on Faculty Conflict of Commitment and Conflict of Interest. Citations to this document are in parentheses below.

The following is a summary of some important points to keep in mind about the COI Policy. This is not a complete summary of the policy:

Each faculty member is required under the COI Policy to submit to the Dean:

  • The Annual Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment Form along with his or her Faculty Activity Report. The Annual Form can be found on FacultyNet Northwestern Law Private Access
  • Ad Hoc requests (which can be submitted in writing or by e-mail) to seek approval for any activities that may pose potential violations of the COI Policy whenever:
    • Current or prospective situations that may raise questions of conflict of commitment or conflict of interest become known to the faculty member (all information required on annual disclosure/certification reports must be provided);
    • There are changes in financial interests or external activities, including changes that alter the nature of, or eliminate, an actual or potential conflict previously disclosed

The Dean or an Associate Dean must approve any Ad Hoc request prior to the faculty member undertaking the proposed activity.

In general, the Law School's review of potential conflicts will be undertaken in light of our four general propositions:

  1. Conflicts of Commitment and Conflicts of Interest are inevitable.
  2. Faculty Members must disclose activities that may give rise to Conflicts of Commitment and Conflicts of Interest for administrative review and approval.
  3. Faculty Members may act in dual roles as long as the proposed activity has been disclosed and approved.
  4. A conflict may be so profound that the Faculty Member will not be allowed to participate in a particular transaction and/or activity, or to make a decision for the University, or to attempt to influence a decision made or to be made by the University. (I)

The COI Policy should be understood to include the following specific expectations:

  • No member of the Faculty (whether residential or adjunct) can agree to teach at another institution (whether an educational or other type of entity or program) prior to having reported the proposed teaching to the Dean and secured approval for such teaching.
  • Compensated professional/commercial activities, including outside consulting activity, should not exceed, on the average, one day be calendar week (i.e., one day in seven) throughout the calendar year.
  • Each Faculty member must disclose consulting and other compensated professional/commercial activities if the amounts received total more than 20% of the faculty member's base annual salary.
  • Conflicts of interest rules apply to all Faculty (whether residential or adjunct); conflict of commitment rules apply to all residential Faculty who are full-time and on a pro rata basis and to residential Faculty who are part-time; conflict of commitment rules do not apply to adjunct Faculty.

The following are the definitions of conflict of interest and conflict of commitment from the COI Policy:

What is Conflict of Commitment?

A conflict of commitment occurs when the time devoted to external activities adversely affects a faculty member's capacity to meet University responsibilities. Any outside employment, and even activities such as pro bono work and government service in the public interest, must be managed so as not to take precedence over a faculty member's primary commitment to the University (II-A).

The following are not conflicts of commitment unless they interfere with the person doing the job he/she is expected to do for Northwestern.

  • Activities the school requires or expects
  • Activities approved by the Dean (or his/her designee)
  • Community service (i.e., teaching Sunday School, Cub Scouts, PTA, etc.)

What is Conflict of Interest?

A conflict of interest occurs when there is a divergence between a faculty member's private interests and his/her professional obligations to the University, such that an independent observer might reasonably question whether the faculty member's professional actions or decisions are determined by any considerations other than the best interests of the University (III-A).