Good Counsel: Meeting the Legal Needs of Nonprofits


If you care about nonprofits and their legal needs, this is yourplaybook. Never before has the General Counsel of a majororganization taken readers on a grand tour that summarizes thelegal responsibilities and opportunities of nonprofits. Withillustrative examples from human services, higher education,cultural, and other organizations, Good Counsel helps executives,board members, and lawyers avoid mistakes and serve withexcellence.

Highly relevant for lawyers and non-lawyers ...

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Good Counsel: Meeting the Legal Needs of Nonprofits

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If you care about nonprofits and their legal needs, this is yourplaybook. Never before has the General Counsel of a majororganization taken readers on a grand tour that summarizes thelegal responsibilities and opportunities of nonprofits. Withillustrative examples from human services, higher education,cultural, and other organizations, Good Counsel helps executives,board members, and lawyers avoid mistakes and serve withexcellence.

Highly relevant for lawyers and non-lawyers alike, Good Counseldistills to their essentials the legal needs of one million publiccharities in the United States: nonprofit corporate law andgovernance, the tax exemption, and business law topics relevant toprogram, fundraising, finance, human resources, communications,operations, and more.

With focus questions, practice pointers, actionable checklists,work plans, and sample documents, the book and its companionwebsite invite readers to:

  • Energize the boardroom with role clarity and trusteeengagement
  • Boost fundraising activities
  • Negotiate contracts that serve the organization's bestinterests
  • Support a committed workforce with sound employment policies
  • Strengthen the organization's name and protect its goodworks
  • Understand the business model and applicable regulations
  • Find the sweet spot for entrepreneurial initiatives
  • Lobby effectively . . . without crossing the line
  • Start up or step up a network of legal supporters

Good Counsel also reveals how nonprofits and lawyers worktogether, how they find one another, and how the smart onesleverage their relationships to the greatest benefit of all.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Great resource... Her writing style is less lawyerly, andwell, human. The book is filled with stories, practical resources,and tools.” Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can UseSocial Media

“Remarkable, up-to-date and virtually all-inclusivepractice treatment...An impressive array of guidelines and how-tosuggestions and materials intended to train incoming counsel andthose on both sides of the attorney-client relationship.”New York Bar Journal

“A true must-read for nonprofit lawyers, executives, boardmembers and even law students....If you interact with nonprofits,this is the book.” New York Law Journal

“Rosenthal gives us the scoop on how lawyers can parlaytheir firm experience into a job in the nonprofit sector.”(amlawydaily, April 2012)

“There is no doubt that once you have this book in yourhands, you’ll be grateful, whether you’re a developmentdirector, the ED, or a ‘member of the board’. Add GoodCounsel to your nonprofit management bookshelf and make sure thatyour entire management team knows about it.”(, February 2012)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781118084045
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 1/11/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 697,452
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

LESLEY ROSENTHAL leads the legal, governance, and compliance functions of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc. Since 2005 she has fashioned the legal context for the renowned arts center's world-class cultural and educational offerings, its entrepreneurial initiatives in media, fashion, and international consulting, and the $1.2 billion redevelopment of its iconic physical complex. Rosenthal has served in many roles throughout the nonprofit sector, including for the New York State Bar Association and its Foundation. For thirteen years she was in private practice as a business, litigation, and technology lawyer at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in Manhattan. Rosenthal graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. The National Organization for Women (NOW-nyc) has named her a "Woman of Power and Influence." Follow her on Twitter @GoodCounselBook.

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Table of Contents

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xvii

Introduction xix

Who Should Use This Book xx

Features of the Book xxi

How This Book Is Set Up xxii

Preliminary Observations xxiv

Illustrative Cases xxvii

Part I An Overview of Nonprofits’ Legal Needs

Chapter 1 What Good Counsel Can Do for Nonprofits 3

What Legal Needs Do Nonprofits Have in Common? 4

Beyond Laws about Nonprofits: Complying with Business Laws, Too11

First Stop for Legal Advice: CYA (Consult Your Attorney) 12

In Sum/Coming Up Next 14

Chapter 2 Nonprofit Legal Basics: Corporate Law and theRequirements of the Tax Exemption 19

The Benefi ts of Incorporating 19

Getting Organized as a Nonprofit Corporation 22

Following Good Corporate Law Practices 24

Obtaining Recognition of Tax-Exempt Status 28

Maintaining Tax-Exempt Status 31

Meeting Additional IRS Expectations 34

Chapter 3 Good Counsel about Corporate Governance 47

What Does the Board Do? 47

Advocacy and Independent Judgment: Counsel in Relation to theChief Executive 58

When Governance Fails: Learning by Negative Example 59

Part II A Grand Tour of Nonprofits’ Business LawNeeds

Chapter 4 Contracts and Intellectual Property: Laws thatMatter to Program Staff 67

Understanding the Organization’s Program 67

Contracts: At the Heart of the Program’s LegalArrangements 68

What Is Intellectual Property (and What Does It Have to Do withNonprofits?) 81

Copyright Law for Nonprofits: An Introduction 82

Chapter 5 Counseling the Rainmakers: Legal Aspects of RaisingMoney 93

A Lawyer’s Introduction to Fundraising 94

Laws That Matter to Fundraisers 99

Other Places Where Legal Meets Fundraising 112

Better Fundraising Through Good Governance and Compliance117

Chapter 6 Laws That Matter to the Finance Department (orNot-for-Profit, but Not-for-Loss Either) 123

Understand the Big Financial Picture 124

A Year in the Life 132

Other Places Where Legal and Finance Meet 135

Chapter 7 Getting Personnel: Human Resources Law forNonprofits 155

Human Dynamics, Nonprofi ts, and the Law 157

Key Legal Elements of Employment Relationships 159

Other Laws that Matter to Nonprofi t Human ResourcesProfessionals 169

Chapter 8 Getting the Word Out, Legally: Counseling theNonprofit Communications Team 185

Introduction to the Legal Aspects of Nonprofi t Communications185

What Nonprofi t Marketing Directors Should Know about TrademarkLaw 186

Clearing Rights to Use the Protected Works of Others 199

Consumer Regulatory Laws 211

Getting the Word Out, Digitally 214

Other Places Where Legal Meets Communications 217

Chapter 9 Legal Meets Operations, Facilities Management, andSecurity 223

Laws That Matter to Operations 225

About Leases 233

Risk Management and the Chief Operating Officer 240

Chapter 10 Political Activities and Governmental Lobbying243

Thou Shalt Not Politick 243

Lobbying: Advocacy with Limits 247

Recordkeeping, Registration, and Financial Disclosure 250

What Isn’t Lobbying? 251

Part III For Good Counsel Only

Chapter 11 Taking Charge of the Legal Function 257

Catalogue and Prioritize Legal Needs 258

The Softer Skills of Good Counsel 265

Chapter 12 Finding Your Dream Job as In-House Counsel at aNonprofit 271

Where to Begin Searching for an In-House Job at a Nonprofit271

How to Position Yourself to Win an In-House Job in a Nonprofit272

Don’t Believe the Myths 282

Chapter 13 Mobilizing Other Legal Forces for the Good287

Paid and Pro Bono Representations 288

A Broad-Gauge Role for the Legal Profession in the NonprofitSector 294

Notes 297

Index 311

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