A.G. Schneiderman & NYS Bar Association President Doyle Launch Program To Match Nonprofits In Need With Volunteer Attorneys

“Charity Corps” To Provide Counsel To Nonprofits, Improve Governance & Legal Compliance

Volunteer Attorneys Will Help Nonprofits Continue Critical Work In Time Of Financial Uncertainty

 

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and New York State Bar Association President Vincent E. Doyle III today announced the launch of a joint initiative to match volunteer attorneys with nonprofit organizations in need of legal counsel. The innovative partnership called “Charity Corps” will help improve governance and legal compliance by assisting nonprofits that cannot afford legal counsel.

Charity Corps attorneys will help ensure that nonprofits fulfill their responsibilities and continue to provide critical services through difficult economic times. The Attorney General’s Charities Bureau, led by Bureau Chief Jason R. Lilien, will support the initiative by providing training and guidance to volunteer attorneys and nonprofits. The Charities Bureau is responsible for supervising charitable organizations to protect donors, and ensure funds and other property devoted to charitable purposes are properly used. Charity Corps will be administered by the New York State Bar Association.

“Nonprofits are vital to our local communities and state, and we are committed to ensuring that they continue their important work – especially at a time when their services are most in need,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Charity Corps will provide nonprofits with the necessary legal counsel they otherwise could not afford, helping to improve compliance while also providing the means to carry on with their missions. I want to thank President Vincent Doyle and the New York State Bar Association for their partnership and support of this initiative on behalf of New York’s nonprofits and the people they serve.”

“The State Bar Association is pleased to partner with the Attorney General’s Office to promote voluntary legal services that help nonprofits better realize their missions,” President Doyle said. “New York’s attorneys stand ready to serve our important charitable sector – housing, shelter and youth programs, mental health and crisis intervention clinics, high school dropout prevention programs, relief and development assistance, civil rights organizations, veterans’ assistance groups and others – by helping them with their governance and legal compliance needs.  By facilitating pro bono relationships with nonprofits that cannot afford lawyers, the State Bar Association helps do the public good.”

Charity Corps will recruit and train volunteer attorneys to provide legal advice on issues like board governance, fiduciary responsibilities, and nonprofit law compliance. The new program will fill in gaps in coverage so that a broader array of organizations throughout the state are served. It will also work to maximize available resources by matching existing legal service providers with nonprofits in need of pro bono counsel. Organizations that serve the needs of indigent people will receive priority in the program.

Charity Corps will begin as a pilot program, serving up to 50 nonprofits in its first year.  Ultimately, the program is expected to assist substantially more underserved nonprofits across New York State. To be eligible, an organization must have a 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.  It must also lack in-house counsel and be unable to afford outside counsel. Organizations interested in participating in the program must file their applications by December 31, 2011.  For additional eligibility information, including applications and volunteer attorney forms, please visit www.nysba.org/CharityCorps.

Charity Corps will be overseen by a Leadership Committee chaired by Lesley Rosenthal, VP General Counsel & Secretary of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and author of the forthcoming book, Good Counsel: Meeting the Legal Needs of Nonprofits. 

The Leadership Committee also includes:

  • Marnie Berk, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Inc.
  • Miriam Buhl, Weil, Gotshal & Manges
  • Susan Chase, Legal Aid of New York
  • Sean Delany, Lawyers Alliance for New York
  • Stephen Falla-Riff, Legal Aid of New York
  • Lisa Frisch, Legal Project, Albany
  • Richard S. Hobish, Pro Bono Partnership
  • Deirdre Hykal, Willkie Farr & Gallagher
  • Tony Lu, Pro Bono Net
  • Mark O’Brien, Pro Bono Net
  • Ken Perri, Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc.
  • Michael Rothenberg, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Inc.
  • John Sare, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler
  • Douglas Sauer, New York Council of Nonprofits
  • Michael Schachter, Willkie Farr & Gallagher
  • Stacey Slater, Nixon Peabody
  • Ronald J. Tabak, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
  • David Watson, New York Council of Nonprofits

Charity Corps will draw on the expertise and networks of pro bono activity already in place at the New York State Bar Association, including the President’s Committee on Access to Justice, Pro Bono Coordinators Network, and others. 
Attorney General Schneiderman has made improving nonprofit governance and compliance a priority for his office. Earlier this year, he formed the Leadership Committee for Nonprofit Revitalization, a task force of leaders from New York’s nonprofit, business and labor communities charged with developing proposals to strengthen nonprofit governance and accountability, while also modernizing the state’s nonprofit regulatory program to reduce burdens on nonprofits.

The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary bar association in the nation.  It was founded in 1876.

 

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