Featured Small Firm: San Francisco Daily Journal

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NEO Law Group was profiled in the San Francisco Daily Journal on Friday, June 10, 2016.

The attorneys at NEO Law Group preach impact over profit maximization – and they walk the walk.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate in working with some of the best people you could ever know. You can find short bios of our team here. And we extend our thanks to our clients and colleagues who generously agreed to be interviewed by the Daily Journal: Scott Curran (founder of Beyond Advisers and former General Counsel of the Clinton Foundation), Jan Masaoka (CEO, CalNonprofits), Peggy Saika (former CEO, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy), David Sohn (employment and litigation attorney), and Kyle Westaway (social enterprise attorney, consultant, lecturer, author).

“Lawyers in general can get excited about being complex just for the sake of feeling smart or doing something novel … He’s just about trying to understand what the most practical and highest quality approach for the client is going to be.”

Below are lists of our recent published works and speaking engagements. We are committed to continuing to produce valuable information for nonprofit leaders so they can advance their missions and benefit us all.

Recent published works:

Program-Related Investments: Will New Regulations Result in Greater and Better Use? The Nonprofit Quarterly (2016)

The Ongoing Overhead Myth and the Dangers of Overly Zealous State Legislators, The Nonprofit Quarterly (2016)

The Deposed “King” of Queens Library: The Legacy of Bad Nonprofit Leadership, The Nonprofit Quarterly (2016)

Fiscal Sponsorship: A Balanced Overview, The Nonprofit Quarterly (2016)

New California Regulation Poses Threat to Nonprofits Not Properly Registered, The Nonprofit Quarterly (2015)

Fiscal Sponsorship: What You Should Know and Why You Should Know It, ABA Business Law Today (2015)

Basic Legal Considerations Before Launching a Planned-Giving Program, The Chronicle of Philanthropy (2015)

Recent speaking engagements:

2016

Lobbying, Advocacy & Political Activities of Exempt Organizations, CalCPA NPO Cmt – SF (6/21)

Legal and Ethical Crowdfunding for Non-profits: Opportunities, Pitfalls, and Best Practices, ABA Center for Professional Development (6/28)

Legal Careers Outside the Box, Continuing Education of the Bar – California

Ask a Nonprofit Lawyer: Governance & Bylaws, Yale Alumni Nonprofit Alliance

Nonprofit Law Primer for Emerging Leaders, NEO Law Group

Duties and Responsibilities of Serving on a Nonprofit Board, Bar Association of San Francisco

What You Need to Know about Social Media and Nonprofits, Clear Law Institute

2015

Current Developments – The Bakers’ Dozen, Western Conference on Tax-Exempt Organizations (Los Angeles)

Nonprofit Board Scandals and the Lessons Learned, BoardSource Leadership Forum (New Orleans)

Legal Session, National Network of Fiscal Sponsors Annual Gathering (New York City)

10 Rules Your Nonprofit Needs to Know for 2016, Annual Policy Convention, CalNonprofits

Learn How to Form a Nonprofit, Yale Alumni Nonprofit Alliance

Opening Plenary – Threads, Independent Sector National Conference (Miami)

Top Five Hot Legal Topics for 501(c)(3) Organizations (webinar), American Law Institute

Nonprofit Legal Structures and Compliance Issues, CalCPA Nonprofit Interest Group, South Bay

Nonprofit Law, MyLawCLE (Miami)

Social Media for Nonprofits (webinar), American Law Institute

Building Movements and Advocacy, 501(c)onference, Center for Nonprofit Management (Los Angeles)

Diverse Views on Social Impact Financing, National Summit on Quality in Home Visiting Programs, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Every Child Succeeds (Washington DC)

How to Start a California Nonprofit Webinar, California Family Resource Association

Hot Topic Call: Risk Assessment for Model A Fiscal Sponsors, National Network of Fiscal Sponsors

Nonprofit Law: Hot Topics, Continuing Education of the Bar, State Bar of California

Nonprofit Law Basics, Community Leaders Summit, Parents Club on Board, Care.com

Thanksgiving 2015

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On this Thanksgiving, I have much to be thankful for, including on a professional level, these 10 opportunities:

  1. To work with and be around truly amazing co-workers who inspire me and fill my life with positivity (thank you Erin and Michele!).
  2. To serve and work with charities, foundations, and their leaders in making this a better world for more people.
  3. To continually learn from our clients, our colleagues, and experts in diverse areas.
  4. To share our knowledge through the Nonprofit Law Blog, The Nonprofit Quarterly, Nonprofit Radio, and social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn).
  5. To present information to strengthen nonprofits at conferences and through webinars for organizations including BoardSource, Independent Sector, CalNonprofits, and the American Law Institute.
  6. To bring together national, state, and local organizations to advocate on public policy issues.
  7. To collaborate and present with highly respected colleagues from other firms and organizations.
  8. To operate with a double-bottom line where impact is our priority.
  9. To receive, for our work, kind and generous words of appreciation from clients, colleagues, friends, nonprofit leaders, the media, and the general public.
  10. To work from our great new office at WeWork – Transbay.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

~John F. Kennedy

Erin Bradrick

 



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Erin Bradrick is Senior Counsel at NEO Law Group and a regular contributor to the Nonprofit Law Blog, The Nonprofit Quarterly, and the Daily Journal. Erin’s practice focuses on corporate, governance, charitable trust, and tax matters solely for nonprofit and exempt organizations. She has worked with many types of exempt entities, including public charities, private foundations, social welfare organizations, business leagues, social clubs, churches, and schools. Erin has experience working on a broad range of matters, including nonprofit formations, fiscal sponsorship, foreign and domestic grant making, earned income and the unrelated business income tax (UBIT), lobbying and advocacy activities, collective impact models, executive compensation and excess benefit transactions, donor advised funds, private benefit and private inurement matters, chapter and affiliation structures, mergers and acquisitions, and dissolutions. She also conducts trainings for nonprofit boards of directors on a range of governance issues and speaks on nonprofit legal issues to various local, regional, and national audiences.

Prior to joining NEO Law Group, Erin was a litigation associate with Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, where she worked on a number of complex commercial litigation matters. In addition, Erin clerked for the Honorable Dana M. Sabraw in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. She also currently serves on the board of directors of the YWCA of San Francisco & Marin. Erin is a graduate of UCLA, summa cum laude in Women’s Studies and Political Science, and Yale Law School, where she was Submissions Director and Symposium Coordinator of the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism. She is admitted to practice law in the states of California and New York.

You can read more about Erin in the inaugural Yale Law Women alumnae spotlight here.

Attorney For Nonprofits

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I often get asked about my work, especially by young law students and lawyers, but also by others looking for a meaningful profession. Some are attracted by what they perceive to be the money and respect associated with being an attorney combined with the social good (or saving grace) associated with working for nonprofits. Others look to position themselves to be able to effect change in a particular area (e.g., social justice, women’s rights, environment, education).

When asked what led me to this work, I start by pointing to a singular event: laying off all my coworkers at large branch of a global retailer where I was the operations manager. This made me rethink and ultimately reject the familiar platitude “work to live, don’t live to work.” I wanted to find a job that was meaningful and an expression of my identity. Having been blessed with circumstances that allowed me to pursue this goal, two graduate degrees and several jobs later, I started my law practice focused on serving nonprofit organizations on January 1, 2005.

So, what does an attorney for nonprofits do? I certainly can’t speak for all of my peers whose practices vary widely, but I represent mostly 501(c)(3) charitable organizations on corporate and tax matters. On a given day, I may work on matters for 5-10 clients, doing things like counseling executives through compliance issues, reviewing or drafting governance documents and contracts, preparing tax-exemption applications, structuring mergers and collaborations, advising on operational issues and strategies, and working though earned income – unrelated business issues. The missions of our clients vary widely: education, social justice, health, environment, arts, religion, international poverty relief, social services, children, animal welfare, scientific research, disaster relief, etc. So, while I may regularly work on certain types of matters repetitively (e.g., reviewing bylaws), there are always unique situations and interesting people to work with, and my expertise grows with each client. Because we regularly work with the 90% of nonprofits that are smaller or medium-sized organizations without in-house counsel, it also means a lot of teaching, which I love.

Apart from client work, I also find it very rewarding to write and present to audiences on a wide variety of legal issues affecting nonprofits and social enterprises and to teach nonprofit law at a local university. These activities also keep me sharp as they require that I continually read, attend seminars and conferences, and learn about my practice area and trends affecting the sector. They also allow me to be creative as I pursue my passion of finding how to engage audiences in unique, effective and fun ways. Providing pro bono counsel, serving on boards, and performing other community services further enrich my professional life.

On top of all of this, I must of course run a business and think about finances, employees, marketing, and an array of other matters every small business owner must manage. While it’s great to be in control of my business and career, managing is also the most challenging part of my job and why I sometimes entertain the thought of combining with another practice and giving up that role. For now, that’s an unlikely prospect because I value the ability to create a unique work environment that emphasizes professional and personal growth equally with client service (and above profit maximization) in a manner that may not be possible in another firm. When those conditions are matched with an amazing person, I know first-hand wonderful things are possible (thank you, Emily). I believe in the values of a B Corporation and am proud to be a member of the social business community.

As satisfying as I find my job, there are drawbacks to working in a very small firm, which some will find more significant than others. The collegial and team-oriented atmosphere of working in a more populated workplace with common goals is missing. Also, we do not regularly engage in cutting-edge research and advocacy on what may or may not be permissible under the law, which big firm attorneys with large institutional clients may find is a satisfying part of their practice. In addition, as outside counsel, we are removed from more directly experiencing the ultimate impact of our work.

For me, the drawbacks are minor compared to the benefits of being able to (i) shape our firm and the ways we serve our clients and our community, (ii) determine the nature of my job and workday, and (iii) develop more meaningful relationships with my coworkers. And because I trust that we know how to work to bring value to our clients and strengthen their abilities to make the world a better place, providing counsel to many clients serving in a variety of ways is, for me, even more rewarding than working for a single organization. It also frees me up to write, speak, teach, and reach out to other organizations and individuals in ways that otherwise might not be possible. Most importantly, working within a small firm allows me to provide these same opportunities to my coworkers.

Michele Berger

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Michele Berger is of counsel at the NEO Law Group and a contributor to the Nonprofit Law Blog. Michele graduated cum laude from the University of San Francisco School of Law, where she was a member of the McAullife Honor Society and on the board of the Law Students for Reproductive Justice. Michele received a bachelor of arts degree in Legal Studies from UC Berkeley and is admitted to practice law in California.

Emily Chan

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Emily Chan is the American Bar Association, Nonprofit Organizations Committee's 2012 Outstanding Nonprofit Lawyer – Young Attorney and an associate attorney with Adler & Colvin.  She started her legal career with NEO Law Group and was a past contributor to the Nonprofit Law Blog from 2008-2013, authoring over 70 articles on nonprofit legal issues.  Emily has also had her work published by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, The Nonprofit Quarterly, About.com, Business Law Today (ABA) and Blue Avocado.  Additionally, Emily speaks at events held by local and national organizations including the American Bar Association (2012 Annual Meeting – Chicago), Foundation Center, CompassPoint, BoardSource, U.S. Green Building Council (2012 Mid-Year Meeting – San Antonio), Net Impact, Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN), Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership, Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence (2012 Annual Conference – Memphis), Lawline, and local committees of the California Society of CPAs. Emily has also guest lectured at graduate business school classes at the University of San Francisco.

I was very lucky to have worked with Emily at the start of her career and see big things ahead for her. 

You can follow Emily on Twitter @emilychan and reach her at echan@adlercolvin.com.

Gene Takagi

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Gene Takagi is a nonprofit and exempt organizations attorney and contributing editor and publisher of the Nonprofit Law Blog. He is a former adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco, corporate and securities lawyer at the AmLaw 100 firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP, and Outstanding Barrister of the Year (Bar Association of San Francisco).

Gene holds a law degree from UCLA and a graduate degree in nonprofit administration from USF. Prior to becoming an attorney, Gene held various senior management positions both in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, and was responsible for annual budgets of $50 million and for the preparation of RFPs cumulatively worth over $500 million.  He is a former director of the medical and behavior divisions of the San Francisco SPCA. Gene has been featured in several publications, including Equal Justice, San Francisco Attorney, The Recorder and Law.com.

Areas of Practice:

Gene’s practice focuses on the representation of nonprofit organizations in the areas of incorporation, fiscal sponsorship, tax-exemption, governance, organizational structuring, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, unrelated business activities, charitable solicitations, lobbying, grantmaking (domestic and international), charitable giving, and dissolution.

Professional Qualifications and Activities:

Gene is a frequent speaker on legal issues affecting nonprofits. Gene has given presentations for dozens of nonprofit groups including Independent Sector, BoardSource, Foundation Center, CompassPoint, California Association of Nonprofits, Grantmakers in the Arts, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, National Network of Fiscal Sponsors, Northern California Grantmakers, Social Media for Nonprofits, Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership, Nonprofit Webinars, Alliance for Community Media (National Conference), San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Western Museums Association, and local committees of the California Society of CPAs. He is also a popular speaker for numerous professional associations and continuing education events including the American Bar Association (Annual Meeting), Bar Leadership Institute (ABA), Continuing Education of the Bar (State Bar of California), Bar Association of San Francisco, Santa Barbara County Bar Association, Western Conference on Tax-Exempt Organizations, and the GWSCPA Nonprofit Finance and Accounting Symposium in DC, Lawline, Law.com, Lorman Education Services, and Rossdale CLE. Gene is also a regular contributor to Tony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio.

A prolific writer, Gene has been published by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, The Nonprofit Quarterly, The Nonprofit TimesTaxation of Exempts (Thomson Reuters), The Practical Lawyer (American Law Institute/American Bar Association), CalNonprofits, ABA BoardLink, ABA Business Law Today, and Blue Avocado. He has also edited articles appearing in Nonprofit Quarterly and About.com and served as technical editor of the Nonprofit Kit for Dummies.

Gene is a member of the State Bar of California, American Bar Association, Bar Association of San Francisco, and Net Impact.  Gene is a former board member of Net Impact, Community Initiatives, JCYC, Barristers Club of the Bar Association of San Francisco, YNPN-SFBA, and Community Thrift Store, and a former advisory board member of the Legal Services for Entrepreneurs program of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.

While working with Gene, former NEO Law Group associate Emily Chan was honored with the 2012 Outstanding Nonprofit Lawyer – Young Lawyer Award by the American Bar Association Business Law Section, Nonprofit Organizations Committee.

Pro Bono:

Gene is committed not only to providing pro bono services but also to promoting the importance of pro bono work.  He is a former Chair of the Pro Bono Issues Committee of the Barristers’ Club and four-time recipient of the Outstanding Volunteer in Public Service award by the Volunteer Legal Services Program. Gene currently serves on the board of CompassPoint and the public policy committee of Independent Sector.

Education:

Juris Doctor, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Master of Nonprofit Administration, University of San Francisco
Bachelor of Science, University of British Columbia

You can learn more about Gene’s work here.