Albany Law Launches Non-Profit Legal Assistance Program

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Thomas F. Guernsey, President and Dean of Albany Law School, announced today a new program to provide legal training and education to help the non-profit community.  Specifically, the program will provide training and education to non-profit boards of directors to enhance their understanding of and compliance with governance issues facing community-based boards.

With federal funding secured through the efforts of Congressman Michael R. McNulty (D-Green Island), the program will provide an opportunity for four law student fellows, under the supervision of the program's director, attorney John Santacrose, Esq., to each work with a non-profit organization to develop a series of training modules around non-profit board governance and other general legal issues.

The information developed will be published in user-friendly guides and made available to all non-profits in the Capital Region and across the State. 

The project will culminate in a statewide non-profit law conference to be held at Albany Law School in the spring of 2007. 

"Thanks to Congressman McNulty's leadership, non-profits in the region will be better prepared to meet the changing legal landscape challenging non-profit organizations in the area of governance, ensuring continued vitality and critical service delivery throughout the region," said Guernsey.  "At the same time, Albany Law School will offer its students a unique opportunity to work closely with non-profit boards and key staff."   

"Many non-profit organizations, including the members of their boards, have little access to legal advice and information, despite their critical roles in supporting the community," said McNulty.  "This funding will help build a long-term program that benefits Albany Law students and strengthens legal support for our non-profit community.  I am pleased to have played a role in securing federal funding for this worthwhile project."

"Typically non-profit board members are not aware of New York laws that define their authority, responsibility or liability," said Patricia Salkin, associate dean and director of the law school's Government Law Center, which will administer the program.

The program will provide information on critical legal issues facing boards including: director duties and responsibilities; conflicts of interest; non-profit liability; and distinctions between advocacy and lobbying under both federal tax laws and state laws and regulations.

The four non-profit organizations that will work directly with the program are: the Alternative Living Group, Inc., Schenectady; Caring Together, Inc., Delmar; Watervliet Senior Citizens Center, Inc., Watervliet; and Community Caregivers, Inc., Guilderland.

The four student fellows that will be paired with the non-profit organizations are Byron Fogan (2L) of Hamburg, N.Y., Christine Halverson (3L) of La Crosse, WI., Glinnesa Gailliard (3L) of Albany, N.Y., and Deanna Scesny (2L) of Watervliet, N.Y.

An advisory committee has been appointed to assist the Government Law Center in implementing the program.  Members include:  E. Kristen Frederick, Executive Director of The Community Foundation; Thea Hoeth, Esq., Executive Director of  To Life; Paul Kietzman, General Counsel, New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities; Molly Miccio, Program Manager, Non-profit Business Council of the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce; Nan Miller, founder of the Klepper Non-Profit Legal Assistance Program; William Redmond, Esq., Chairman of the Government Law Center Advisory Board; Professor Judith Saidal, Director, Center for Women and Government, University at Albany;  Doug Sauer, Executive Director, The Council of Community Services, New York State; and Timothy Lennon, Assistant State Attorney General, Charities Bureau.

The Government Law Center began a focus on providing legal information to grass-roots non-profits in the Capital Region 10 years ago through its Lawrence Klepper Non-Profit Legal Assistance Program, funded in part through donations to the Social Action Committee at Congregation Beth Emeth.  Through the Klepper Program, the Government Law Center has paired law students with attorneys who agreed to provide pro bono or low-cost legal services to non-profits so that students would gain a better understanding of non-profit law, and develop a sense of pro bono while being mentored by local attorneys.