Cabot, AR asked in Business Law for Arkansas

Q: Can you help me find an attorney who specializes in nonprofit organizations? There is no state association in Arkansas.

A Google search turns up injury lawyers, criminal and family lawyers, but not even one that specializes in business law and there is no state association of nonprofits in Arkansas. We are looking for someone to turn to in order to stay current on laws concerning nonprofits and/or to serve on our board of directors - if that is possible. I don't know if that's even a thing as I can't find one to ask... Thanks so much for any advice or direction you may have for us.

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1 Lawyer Answer

A: Here are some options for you to find a nonprofit organization attorney who might be able to help.

First, you might refine your Google technique. Try specifically searching for a "nonprofit organization attorney." That might filter out some of the criminal lawyers and family lawyers. You might need to scroll down past the first several results (advertisements) to find some options -- there are some lawyers who pay for Google to run their ads any time somebody near them searches for "attorney," without narrowing down the search to only reach people who are looking for their type of lawyer. So you might need to go down past the results that are advertisements.

Second, it is likely that the largest law firms in your area probably have a nonprofit organization practice. Unfortunately, those large "downtown" law firms are sometimes very expensive, and it sounds like your organization is just getting off the ground. But even if they don't fit your budget, they might also be able to refer you to a smaller firm or solo attorney nearby who might be a better match for you.

Another option in Arkansas is to check with the University of Arkansas School of Law. They have a business transaction clinic that focuses on helping nonprofits. If they take you on as a client, law students (always working under the supervision of a licensed lawyer and law school professor) will work on your legal issues. They say that they work with nonprofits all over the state, not just up in Fayetteville. And if they cannot help you, they might have a list of Arkansas attorneys who focus their practice on nonprofits.

Most of the "find an attorney" websites do not do a great job of separating out nonprofit organization attorneys from other business law attorneys. For those of us who focus our practice exclusively on advising nonprofits, it is a bit frustrating.

Some of the types of legal questions that you have probably do not need to be answered by an Arkansas attorney. Quite a bit of your legal questions probably involve matters of federal law (tax exemption, compliance with IRS rules and regulations, etc.) Any lawyer who is competent to advise you on those matters can do so, regardless of where they are located, because they are questions of federal law. In the legal field, this is sometimes referred to as "multi-jurisdictional" practice of law. How much they can advise you above and beyond the federal questions will depend on what types of issues you have. In Arkansas, an out-of-state attorney is allowed to advise you on issues that "arise out of or are reasonably related to" those federal matters. So a multijurisdictional nonprofit attorney who is licensed in another state MIGHT be a good solution for you.

Finally, the American Bar Association has a nonprofit organizations committee that is part of the business law section. The list of members is not searchable by the public, but a member of the committee can search that list by location and might be able to refer you to an Arkansas member of the committee.

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