482: Advising Not-for-Profit Organizations: Business Practicum
4 or 3
Credit Hours: Spring (4-credit version) or Summer (3-credit version)
Please note: This course is offered in a 4-credit version in the spring semester, and in a 3-credit version in the summer. The differences between the spring and summer versions are noted at the end of this description. Students may take elect to take this course in the spring or in the summer, but not both.
There are more than 1.5 million not-for-profit organizations in the United States alone, and more throughout the world. Not-for-profit organizations contribute to society in many ways, through diverse missions from education and research, to social services, relief, and advocacy, to religion, to arts and culture. In addition to the impact made through their missions, not-for-profits as a group are significant as employers and for their contribution to the general economy as well.
Not-for-profit organizations exist to further their charitable purposes, do not distribute dividends or net revenues (having no private shareholders or owners), and often are formed and operated to qualify for Federal income tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) or other provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. Nonetheless, they have many of the same operational needs and characteristics of any other business. They occupy space (whether owned, leased, or hosted by others). They purchase and consume goods and services from vendors and suppliers. They manage and cope with attendant risks.
Interestingly, commentators suggest that not-for-profits can be more complex to manage, and to advise, than a for-profit business. The organization may have funding constraints, staff constraints, and knowledge constraints, particularly when coping with transactions or situations that arise only occasionally or where the organization is governed or operated in whole or in part by volunteers. Not-for-profit facilities and operations can be uniquely complex (think for example about a museum, a zoo, a hospital, or a cathedral), and their diverse sources of governmental and private funding can come with extensive conditions, restrictions, and reporting requirements. They may even be offered (or accept) donated goods or services in kind, gifts that come with their own implications.
This course will explore the opportunities and challenges for lawyers involved with not-for-profit organizations, whether as paid or pro bono legal advisors, or as board members or volunteers. The course will use a combination of traditional lecture and discussion, case study simulations, and guest speakers, as well as individual meetings with students on directed work. The course also intersects with The Rooftops Project, founded and directed by Professor Hagy, that engages in research and resource development for the not-for-profit sector related to the role of real estate (owned, leased, or hosted physical space) in the operations, financial performance, and achievement of mission of not-for-profit organizations.
The course will be centered around a recurrent series of fictional clients, each a not-for-profit organization, engaged in a variety of operational and transactional situations. Each client organization will have a different mission, size, and resources, as well as mock client representatives who will have different business and style preferences, which the class will need to accommodate and will come to anticipate in fashioning and recommending solutions for each client. Each student will be invited to select and imagine a mock client organization with a not-for-profit mission suited to the student’s interest and will have the opportunity to identify and explore individual topics relevant to not-for-profit transactions, operations, and governance.
The course will also consider issues of legal ethics and professional conduct, as well as governance and fiduciary duty of board members, in the not-for-profit context. The course’s emphasis on case studies and commercial transaction scenarios is also designed to act as a capstone course which complements and draws upon the students’ prior coursework in contracts, real estate and commercial transactions, ethics, and government regulation. In these ways, the course emphasizes skills relevant in any transactional project, for-profit or otherwise.
Spring version: The course will meet most weeks at the scheduled class time either for in-class lectures, guest lectures, or simulations. There will also be opportunities to meet on-site at Chicago not-for-profit organizations and with Chicago lawyers and other professionals. Student participation in The Rooftops Conference Chicago (a public program for the not-for-profit community presented each spring at LUC Law School) is part of the commitment to this course, the date and times for which are shown in the course registration information for scheduling purposes. Students will be graded based on class participation, written assignments and exercises, and a paper and presentation resulting from research and study on their chosen mock client and individual study topics. There is no final examination for this course. (Hagy)
Summer version: The course will meet in several concentrated weekend sessions, which will be used either for in-class lectures, guest lectures by not-for-profit executives or industry professionals, simulations, or collaborative review of self-directed work by class members. Students will be graded based on class participation, written assignments and exercises, and a paper and presentation resulting from research and study on their chosen mock client and individual study topics. There is no final examination for this course. (Hagy)