Initially, nonprofit, tax-exempt, and social enterprise organizations were not part of my law practice. I pursued a traditional legal career beginning with an appellate clerkship followed by service as an assistant district attorney during which I tried everything from speeding tickets to murder. Thereafter, I established a general law practice which included business and civil matters, but also, a criminal defense trial practice that over time came to focus on representing juveniles and young people in court. For too many years on a daily basis my career dealt with the destructive nature of man and the harm done to the innocent and not so innocent!
The nonprofit sector seeks positively to change people and institutions in our communities, indeed the very fabric of our society, through the social capital and investment it creates and builds daily. This is why I now choose to work with nonprofit and tax exempt organizations.
I began my current practice after more than ten years of volunteer experience serving on a variety of nonprofit boards of director. During the first few months while serving on my first nonprofit board of directors I completed the Duke University Nonprofit Management Certificate program. I now serve as an instructor for this program. In retrospect this program was the genesis and first step which lead to my full time practice today.
While serving as an active and engaged volunteer I experienced first hand the many legal and management needs even the smallest of nonprofits require. My experiences ranged from co-founding an innovative court base child care center with a budget of less than $200,000 to a national voluntary health association board and its related chapters with their combined budgets in the millions of dollars. Most unexpectedly, these experiences lead to the opportunity to return full-time to graduate school in mid-career.
Closing one’s practice and becoming a full time graduate student is something which most lawyers don’t do. Graduate school provided provided the opportunity to study and think in depth about nonprofit organizations and sector. I graduated with an MPA degree with a concentration in managing nonprofit and public sector organizations to accompany my decade long hands on education as a volunteer.
Graduate school was a transformative experience. To attend classes required me to walk across a bridge daily. Similarly, graduate school served as a bridge to transition from my former practice to my current practice and work in the nonprofit sector. While studying at the Harvard Kennedy School, I was privileged to study and work with faculty at the Hauser Center for Nonprofits and the Harvard Business School’s Initiative on Social Enterprise. They led and inspired by their commitment to advance the nonprofit and social sector through their scholarship and teaching. They remain professional mentors, colleagues, and friends.
Similarly, faculty working at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and Fuqua School of Business and North Carolina State University’s Institute for Nonprofits now engage my learning through their ongoing efforts in the sector. Hopefully, through my efforts as an attorney, educator, trainer and now budding writer, I will in some small way repay them for their many gifts to me.
“The Nonprofit Mentor” represents both a professional and personal journey. A professional journey in that I make my living advising, educating, and training others about nonprofit organizations. “The Nonprofit Mentor” seeks to complement these endeavors.
Equally clearly, “The Nonprofit Mentor” is not intended nor does it create or form the attorney-client relationship. There is simply no substitute for the reader receiving legal advice adapted to their specific circumstances by a trusted professional of their choosing. Please read the disclaimer page and heed its advice.
“The Nonprofit Mentor” is also a personal journey in the sense an author must give of themself in the process by commiting to the effort and time to give the best they can to their readers. I intend to do so, but ask for your forbearance and understanding when I don’t.
My goals are to inform, educate, challenge, and, most of all, to invoke thoughtful conversation on the myriad of issues with an end to improve both nonprofit organizations and the sector. “The Nonprofit Mentor” will seek to provide informed comments, observations, opinions, and information about exempt organizations and the nonprofit sector. Should we differ, as no doubt at times we will, let us commit to seek common ground upon which to move forward whenever possible.
Significantly, my comments do not and will not reflect the opinions or positions of former, current, or prospective clients for whom I may be called upon to advocate on their behalf opinions directly contrary to those I may have written or subscribed to here or elsewhere. As trial advocate I find no inconsistency there and will not undertake to advise or represent them if my opinion gives rise to a sufficient conflict impairing my capacity to represent their interests fully. This is a duty and responsibility incumbent upon any attorney.
Further, as a lifelong and inverterate learner, I explicitly reserve for myself the right to alter, change, modify, or even reverse my observations, comments, and opinions. Whether such change is based is upon better reasoned opinion, more facts, a better understanding, changes in law or circumstances, or even the whimsical way a matter may strike me, the nonprofit sector is a growing and evolving community that must allow for individuals, organizations, law, and practice to change with it. In that regard I subscribe to Heraclitus’ advice that “Nothing is permanent but change.”
We learn through the stories we hear and tell. One finds their voice through the process of listening, learning, and now through writing.
Thank you for your forbearance, participation, and help in this journey.