December 18, 2017

Ethical Issues for Lawyers Serving on Nonprofit Boards

nonprofitLawyers are invited to join the boards of nonprofit corporations for a variety of reasons, the best of which relate to the judgment and analytical and communication skills lawyers may bring to bear. Service on nonprofit boards, however, often presents lawyers with irresistible opportunities to their exercise their legal training, with potential ethical implications.

One of the primary ethical concerns for attorneys serving on nonprofit boards is whether the attorney is perceived as representing the organization or actually represents the organization. Lawyers serving on nonprofit boards must take care to avoid establishing an accidental attorney-client relationship. If a lawyer does not want to enter into an accidental attorney-client relationship, he or she would be wise to make it clear from the beginning of his or her service, perhaps in writing, that there is no attorney-client relationship. Similarly, attorneys serving on nonprofit boards should emphasize their roles to the other board members.

Conflicts of interest are another ethical pitfall for attorneys serving on nonprofit boards. The lawyer’s independent professional judgment may be compromised by his or her obligation to respect the conduct of the organization regardless of whether that conduct complies with the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct. There is also the potential for conflict between the organization and the attorney’s law firm.

Although serving on boards of directors for nonprofit organizations presents unique ethical concerns, attorneys provide valuable contributions to boards. Good practices, such as clarifying the lawyer’s role before beginning board service or refraining from voting on issues involving the lawyer’s firm, can help avoid ethical dilemmas.

Ericka Houck Englert, Of Counsel at Davis Graham & Stubbs, will present a one-hour lunch program on December 20, 2016, to discuss ethics for attorneys sitting on nonprofit boards. Register by calling (303) 860-0608, or click the links below.

 

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CLE Program: Ethical Issues for Attorneys Serving on Nonprofit Boards

This CLE presentation will occur on December 20, 2016, at the CBA-CLE offices (1900 Grant Street, Third Floor), from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Register for the live program here or register for the webcast here. You may also call (303) 860-0608 to register.

Can’t make the live program? Order the homestudy here: MP3Video OnDemand.

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