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When Does Your Nonprofit Need an Attorney?

If you are on the board of a nonprofit, you already know that there are some situations where your organization will need an attorney. However, most nonprofits do not realize many of the areas where an attorney can drastically minimize risk for the nonprofit, and thus save resources. Further, many also do not realize the importance of selecting an attorney who has experience working with nonprofits and thus can understand the unique needs of these organizations. Here are some common ways in which an experienced nonprofit attorney can help your organization.

1. Formation. To start, your nonprofit really needs an attorney before it even exists. An attorney will help you draft or review your articles of incorporation, your bylaws, and your operating agreement. It has become increasingly popular to use boilerplate formation documents from the Internet, but this is rarely a good idea. A good attorney will be able to tailor your documents to your specific needs, and will be able to minimize potential problems that your organization may encounter through insufficient formation documents.

2. Tax documents. An attorney will also be able to draft or review your application for tax-exempt status. Further, an attorney will be able to keep your organization updated as to any changes in the requirements or your eligibility for tax exemption.

3. Employment. Not all nonprofits require employees, but once the decision is made to consider hiring workers, an attorney should be consulted. A good attorney can assist by drafting or reviewing your employee handbook, helping establish hiring policies, and handling potential employer-employee conflicts. Becoming an employer is a step that absolutely requires an attorney.

4. Contracts and Leases. Again, this is an area where many officers try to navigate their own way. Finding a contract on the Internet and pasting in your information is rarely a good idea. One of the chief purposes of a contract is to save trouble and money in the long run. A good attorney will be familiar with the priorities of your organization and will help craft a contract or lease that gives you short-term benefits with long-term protection. Chances are good that your landlord, contractor, or vendor has used an attorney to review their contracts. Failing to use an attorney to draft or review contracts and leases puts your organization at a decided disadvantage.

5. Intellectual Property. This is another area where, although there will be varying degrees of need depending on the organization, an attorney is practically essential. An attorney can help secure a patent, copyright, or trademark for your organization. While intellectual property is often easy to steal, an attorney can build the protections necessary to shield your organization’s hard work.

6. Litigation. This is the obvious area where an organization needs an attorney. But not just an attorney will do. Your attorney should be familiar with your organization and its priorities. There are many different ways to approach litigation, and the attorney best situated to handle your case is often one who understands the things that make your organization unique.

The attorneys at Dalton & Tomich, PLC have extensive experience representing nonprofits of all kinds. We can assist you with any of the issues in this article, and many more. If you are a nonprofit board member or officer, we would love the opportunity to speak with you about how we could help your nonprofit thrive.

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