I attended the ABA Exempt Organizations (EO) Committee Meeting in San Francisco on Friday, September 16, and a mixer the evening before the meeting organized by the New and Young Members Sub-Committee.  It was a nice opportunity for me to meet many attorneys from across the country whose practices similarly focus on exempt organizations (i.e., organizations with tax exempt status), including former EO Committee Chair Betsy Adler (Silk, Adler & Colvin, San Francisco), current Chair LaVerne Woods (DWT, Seattle), Young Members’ Co-Chairs Kristen Gurdin (DWT, Portland) and Ann Batlle (Morgan Lewis, Washington DC), and Eve Borenstein (Borenstein and McVeigh, Minneapolis).

LaVerne started off the meeting with an update of current developments, including the impact of Hurricane Katrina.  News from the IRS (represented by Lois Lerner, Director, EO Rulings & Agreements) and Department of Treasury (represented by Eric San Juan, Attorney-Advisor) followed.  Click here to browse the IRS Exempt Organizations Update Archives.

Prof. Frances Hill (University of Miami Law School) and James Joseph (Arnold & Porter, Washington DC) provided attendees with an excellent task force report:  Tax Shelters and Tax-Exempt Organizations.  (UPDATE:  Click here for IRS article on Abusive Tax Shelters and Transactions – September 19, 2005).

Jan Masaoka, Executive Director of CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, provided the lunchtime keynote address:  Managing Nonprofits in the Real World:  After the Lawyers Leave.  As always, Jan entertained while delivering a crucial message to attorney-advisors:  don’t forget business considerations when assisting nonprofits, particularly those without access to much business acumen in the particular area at issue.  Jan described a particularly painful outcome experienced by one local, well-known nonprofit where its pro bono legal counsel, an unnamed but highly reputable, national law firm, drafted an iron-clad legal contract that locked the nonprofit into a disastrous, long-term business deal.  Click here for Jan’s article for the Stanford Social Innovation Review (Summer 2005):  "What We Really Need:  Eight reforms to make nonprofits more accountable and effective."

After lunch, a panel moderated by Tom Silk (Silk, Adler & Colvin), which included California’s Senior Assistant Attorney General Belinda Johns, discussed California’s Nonprofit Integrity Act.  Click here for the California Attorney General’s website on Charitable Trusts (check the links to the Guide to the Nonprofit Integrity Act of 2004 and the FAQs).

The next session was a Charitable Giving Update presented by a panel including Martin Hall and Carolyn Osteen (both of Ropes & Gray, Boston).  The focus here was on Charitable Remainder Trusts.  Click here for an article on CRTs written by Hall and Osteen for The Boston Foundation’s Spring/Summer 2002 edition of its Philanthropic Advisor.

I look forward to participating on one of the Committee’s task forces and meeting my colleagues again at the next conference.  Keeping informed is a great challenge in this area of law, and I find it invaluable to be part of a national group of top-notch attorneys who have dedicated their practices to nonprofits.