Lawyers Alliance for New York
|Founded||1969, New York, NY|
|Headquarters||171 Madison Avenue New York, NY|
Lawyers Alliance for New York (Lawyers Alliance) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides business and legal transactional services to nonprofit and community development organizations in New York State.
History and Mission Statement
Founded in 1969 as the Council of New York Law Associates, Lawyers Alliance for New York is the leading provider of business and transactional legal services for nonprofit organizations that are improving the quality of life in New York City neighborhoods. Along with direct representation, Lawyers Alliance undertakes educational activities including workshops, webinars, and publications. Annually, Lawyers Alliance represents more than 640 nonprofit organizations on more than 1,030 different legal matters.
The Council of New York Law Associates was founded by a small group of young lawyers who were driven by a spirit of political activism and a desire to give back to their city. In the first year of its founding, it recruited over 500 law firm associates. It served as a clearinghouse for lawyers offering pro bono legal services, and its volunteers provided assistance in a diverse array of community action projects. Notably, it helped organize 2,000 lawyers to march in Washington, DC, during the 1970s and trained its volunteers to serve as neutral observers of political demonstrations.
As New York City changed, so did the organization. With the growing power of the nonprofit sector to create positive and enduring change, the Council developed new initiatives in the 1980s to advise nonprofit housing groups and other community-based organizations in corporate, real estate and tax law. It also established its expertise as a legal resource center and an advocate for the nonprofit sector. With its evolution, the Council changed its name to Lawyers Alliance for New York in 1991.
After the September 11th attacks in 2001, Lawyers Alliance was quick to lead a disaster relief initiative to help those nonprofits that had been affected by the attack and those that were responding to it. This same disaster relief structure was reactivated and reused in part when Hurricane Sandy devastated some neighborhoods of New York City in 2012. Lawyers Alliance also created a program preservation initiative as a response to the effects of the economic downturn on nonprofits, while the clients of those nonprofits needed their services more than ever.
Program Priority Areas
In order to provide legal assistance for a diverse and large group of clients, Lawyers Alliance utilizes the skills of its legal staff, which includes 15 experienced attorneys, joined by a network of more than 1,500 volunteer attorneys from more than 120 law firms and corporate legal departments. By connecting lawyers, nonprofits, and communities, Lawyers Alliance helps nonprofits to develop affordable housing, stimulate economic development, promote community arts, strengthen urban health, and operate and advocate for vital programs for children and young people, the elderly, and other low-income New Yorkers. Each priority is in an area where nonprofits have a critical role and both staff and volunteers have special expertise. Additionally, Lawyers Alliance has developed the following four special initiatives to address emerging legal needs of the nonprofit sector: nonprofit accountability, nonprofit advocacy, disaster relief and navigating economic change.
Lawyers Alliance currently offers twelve publications for nonprofit managers and attorneys. Researched and written by Lawyers Alliance's experienced staff and volunteers, these publications include practical tools such as model forms and checklists. Advising Nonprofits, Sixth Edition (September 2014), and Getting Organized (March 2015) are the two most recently released publications. The Nonprofit Revitalization Act mandated extensive changes to the bylaws and accountability procedures of New York nonprofits, prompting the Lawyers Alliance to update Bylaws that Work: A Manual for New York Nonprofits, which will be available for purchase in September 2015.
Resource Call Hotline
This service, through which nonprofits can receive immediate advice from a Lawyers Alliance staff attorney on pressing questions, responded to over 1,100 inquiries in 2014 alone. This is a valuable resource for nonprofits which Lawyers Alliance offers at no charge, providing legal advice to clients and nonprofits that otherwise may not be able to receive the counsel that they need. Topics addressed with clients in these calls range from the day-to-day operations of the nonprofit to more general issues, such as achieving tax exempt status and the details of merging with another organization.
Lawyers Alliance also offers training workshops to teach nonprofits about the nuances of nonprofit law and good business practices. Many of the seminars offered take the form of webinars, allowing Lawyers Alliance to have a far greater reach and to serve more interested nonprofits. Throughout 2014, the series of trainings on the Nonprofit Revitalization Act was especially useful, with more than 450 people attending in some capacity. In total in 2014, there were 50 events that approximately 1,200 nonprofit managers and board members attended.
The Nonprofit Revitalization Act (NPRA)
The Nonprofit Revitalization Act, effective as of July 1, 2014, makes comprehensive changes to New York’s Not-for-Profit Corporation Law for the first time in forty years, affecting both established organizations and those that are newly forming. The law particularly addresses the bylaws for New York nonprofits, along with their policies on conflicts of interest and governance and fiscal procedures. Lawyers Alliance for New York is supporting nonprofit managers and board members as they bring their organizations into compliance with the new law’s requirements and take advantage of its opportunities. Since the adoption of the Act in late December 2013, Lawyers Alliance has educated more than 450 nonprofit leaders on the new law through webinars, clinics, and telephone resource calls.