Community Development Law Clinic: Case Work Developments

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Prof. David Neal
This semester while Prof. Tom Kelley was teaching in South Africa, we had the good fortune to have David Neal, UNC Law '01 and staff attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, teach with us in the Community Development Law Clinic (CDL).

Under Prof. Neal's supervision, the eight students in the CDL Clinic provided counsel to a wide range of nonprofit organizations. They assisted groups that work on women's empowerment and economic development in Africa, the residential needs of adults with autism, supporting LGBTQ youth, protecting critical wetland habitat, collecting and distributing food donations to families in distress, advocating for children who have been victims of sexual violence, and much more. 

"Working with the CDL Clinic this semester while Prof. Tom Kelley was teaching in South Africa was a real privilege," Prof. Neal said. "It was a great reminder of all the different ways that small, scrappy nonprofit organizations work to make their corner of the world a better, more humane place."

CDL Clinic students assisted with nonprofit formation, local property tax issues, regulatory compliance, insurance, nonprofit mergers, and much more. This semester, they had a combination of new nonprofits in the formation stage as well as older nonprofits that wanted to review their organizational documents. This resulted in a particular focus on drafting bylaws for several groups, a task that involves navigating the North Carolina Nonprofit Corporations Act, Internal Revenue Service guidelines for tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, and best practices for nonprofit governance. They were also aided with Dean Judith Wegner's advice on drafting in plain English, advice too often overlooked when it comes to documents like organizational bylaws.

"Even for those who do not go into nonprofit law practice after law school, these experiences will well-position the CDL Clinic students to provide valuable, pro bono assistance to nonprofits in their communities following graduation," Prof. Neal explained.

Some highlights from the CDL Clinic's work this fall include:

  • Providing counsel to an emerging effort that seeks to develop affordable, cooperative housing. The Clinic has provided research on a governance structure that will allow the nonprofit arm of this broader effort to be well positioned to receive federal community development grants. In the spring, we will continue to support this effort by helping the group apply for nonprofit status and providing counsel on compliance issues and structure.
  • Provided guidance on avoiding conflicts of interest in the use of real property
  • Performed extensive legal research and provided counsel to a social justice nonprofit on how to structure a tenant's rights organization in a way that provides representational standing for members who have to litigate (or threaten suit) to fix problems in apartment complexes serving low-income communities.
  • Researched legal, liability, compliance, and practical considerations for an organization's social media policy, with particular attention to privacy considerations for minors who participate in the nonprofit's activities.
  • Provided guidance on both the mechanics and the pros/cons of fiscal sponsorship.
  • Helped a local nonprofit that does extensive work in a country in Africa think through how it might restructure its operations to be compliant with IRS rules for overseas work and better achieve its programmatic objectives.

We are grateful to Prof. Neal for teaching in the CDL Clinic this semester!

Posted by Tamar R. Birckhead on Wed. December 16, 2015 3:33 PM
Categories: Community Development Law Clinic
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