2018 "Lawyer of the Year" Award Winners in Nonprofit/Charities Law
Cori H. Loomis doesn't just represent nonprofits and charities - she also donates her time to them. Along with fundraising for her children's schools, Loomis serves on the boards of the local Children's Center Rehabilitation Hospital and the volunteer organization Prevent Blindness Oklahoma. "Volunteering for not-for-profit entities definitely helps me understand their issues and be more aware of how legal requirements and recommendations affect them," says Loomis, who also participates in Oklahoma City's Downtown Rotary Club and previously served on the board of Community Health Charities. "More importantly, volunteering and donating time and resources to a not-for-profit helps demonstrate my commitment to the furtherance of its goals and missions. It's like Teddy Roosevelt said: 'People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.'" Loomis's primary advice for attorneys in nonprofit law and women navigating a legal career of any kind: Look inward. "Just be an attorney you'd want to hire for yourself if you needed one," she says. "Provide attention, high-quality work, and exceptional value to your clients."
Christensen Law Group, Oklahoma City, OK
Recognized since 2011
Organizers at colleges, universities, hospitals, and charities can all turn to Ranlet S. Bell, counsel at Womble Bond Dickinson, to advise and guide them through the often complicated do's and don'ts of charitable giving. For 25 years, Bell—who calls her area of practice "Happy Law" because of the fulfillment it engenders—has helped establish charities and gain nonprofit status for a variety of organizations.
Womble Bond Dickinson, Greensboro, NC
Recognized since 2011
Ask Jackie Dimmitt how she ended up working in nonprofit law, and she'll be quick to acknowledge her good fortune. "I was very lucky," says Dimmitt, a partner at Thompson Coburn who specializes in charitable giving and estate planning. "My first several years of practicing law, I worked with an attorney who had a well-established and sophisticated nonprofit practice who was willing to spend time educating me." What has kept her in the field? Simple: those she represents. "I find it very rewarding to work with people dedicated to the mission of their organization," she says. "They're often very creative, hardworking and inspiring."
Thompson Coburn, St. Louis, MO
Recognized since 2010
"I often take younger women lawyers—or other professionals serving the nonprofit sector—under my wing, something I've done throughout my career," says Karen Schauble Leaffer. "I guide them through the bumps they hit in the road, just like others have done for me. And in the 10 years since starting my own practice, I've added and groomed a senior associate who is widely recognized as an up-and-comer in nonprofit law in Colorado; an associate returning to the workforce after raising a family; and an amazing paralegal—who all share my passion for this work." Leaffer counsels nonprofit groups in the usual capacity, helping them navigate regulations and offering advice regarding disaster relief, international grants, public-policy development, and tax credits for low-income housing. She's also currently the managing editor of, and contributing author to, the book A Guide for Colorado Nonprofit Organizations. "My hope is that all of this infrastructure building is helping raise a generation of nonprofit lawyers just as dedicated to serving the nonprofit community as I am," Leaffer says. "Long into the future."
Leaffer Law Group, Denver, CO
Recognized since 2007
Like many attorneys who excel in a given aspect of the law, Ann T. Loftus has been on both sides of the table. Working in college administration and on a variety of boards gave her a deeper understanding of nonprofit law—even before she knew that was the discipline she wanted to pursue. "That practical experience influenced my decision and informs my day-to-day practice," says Loftus, whose nonprofit affiliations include the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia, on whose board she sits. "Whenever possible, I try to consider the practical implications of my legal advice to my nonprofit clients. I also understand how certain items will flow through to the financial statements. The chief financial officers with whom I work appreciate that I understand this aspect of their work and the challenges they face." The rewards of nonprofit law are substantial, Loftus says, citing the variety of organizations she works with and the satisfaction that comes from supporting their causes. The biggest challenge? "The significant amount of regulation with which charities must comply. Making sure to keep up with all the new and ever-changing laws and regulations on the federal, state, and local levels."
Zateeny Loftus, Philadelphia, PA
Recognized since 2005
A Quarles & Brady partner and Harvard Law alumna, Janice E. Rodgers draws on years of experience to advise a range of nonprofits, focusing in particular on political activity and organizing. "Most of the nonprofits I advise are 501(c)(3) charitable and educational organizations, which are prohibited from participating or intervening in a political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate for public office," she says. She also works to promote women's representation in the legal profession, counting herself a member of, inter alia, the Chicago Foundation for Women and Chicago Women in Philanthropy; she's also the former director of the Women's Issues Network. "I've worked with various women-focused organizations over the years," Rodgers says. "Women Employed is another that I strongly support. I've worked in many ways with the Chicago Foundation for Women since the mid-1980s, shortly after it was founded. Both it and I have grown and evolved over the years, although our core values have not changed. The work now is more focused on low-income women and girls, and the need to include men and those from diverse communities in working toward solutions. It's a stronger emphasis than ever." Yet one cause still animates her more than any other: "The empowerment of women and girls to make their own choices in all aspects of their lives remains paramount," she says. "Having a daughter and son, and now a granddaughter, just emphasizes the importance of getting all this right—both immediately and for the future."
Quarles & Brady, Chicago, IL
Recognized since 2007
Lynette M. Zigman practiced nonprofit law with a focus on health care as a partner at Milwaukee's Foley & Lardner before her retirement in 2018, seeking primarily to provide services to elderly and disabled people.
Foley & Lardner, Milwaukee, WI
Recognized since 2007
Kendi E. Ozmon brings her nonprofit expertise to bear for any organization, large or small, in need of legal guidance. "Tax-exempt organizations [run the gamut from] fledgling nonprofits to family foundations to global research universities, and they can be staffed with large professional organizations or all volunteers," she says. "The result is an incredible variety of questions coming across my desk nearly every day. It's a wonderful opportunity to help myriad organizations accomplish their missions." Ozmon's professional history—she held nonprofit positions before law school and again since becoming a lawyer, currently serving as a trustee for Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education—has given her great insight into the groups she now counsels. "This is a specialized field, and having a background in how nonprofits operate, beyond the legal rules that apply to them, has been extremely helpful to my practice," she says. "[My experience has] helped me to understand and anticipate a broader set of concerns and issues. I can give more practical legal advice, rendered with an understanding of the operational challenges of implementation."
Ropes & Gray, Boston, MA
Recognized since 2009
"Nonprofit organizations are mission-driven," says Penny Serrurier, a partner at Stoel Rives who has spent more than 20 years advising them. "Our clients are very passionate about what they do, and they tend to be team-oriented in how they problem-solve. It's rewarding to be part of that team and help clients achieve their goals. Virtually all of them are looking at creative and innovative ways to leverage resources and achieve their mission." Serrurier, who has served on a number of boards and three times won the Portland, Oregon, area "Lawyer of the Year" award in the category of nonprofit/charities law, acknowledges the challenges for women in the legal profession—but notes that one hurdle she didn't face was pushback from her firm when she first became a mother. "I'm part of the 'second generation' of woman lawyers," she says. "Those who came before me paved the way by working harder and smarter than the men around them. I was lucky enough to join a firm that had several women partners who could serve as role models for me. My firm is very supportive of women lawyers: I worked a reduced-hour schedule for many years, and became a partner on a reduced-hour schedule. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity both to raise a family and have interesting, challenging work that has led to a rewarding career. I now serve as an office managing partner for my firm, and one of my goals is to ensure that we maintain a supportive work environment for women."
Stoel Rives, Portland, OR
Recognized since 2006
Rising to the top of the legal profession as a woman is no mean feat. Nor is achieving that same career progress in government. Marilee J. Springer—partner at Ice Miller and former deputy chief of staff and senior policy director for Mike Pence—has done both. "While serving with the Pence administration [when he was governor of Indiana], my role involved policy and traditional chief-operating-officer responsibilities," Springer says, explaining how her work in the public sector influenced her nonprofit law practice. "Together with the Pence senior team, I was involved with significant policy issues and decisions, communications, and the hands-on management of those issues through our oversight of state agencies. This experience has been immensely helpful as I serve as outside general counsel to my clients, assisting them in analyzing difficult issues, making informed decisions, and implementing those decisions in a thoughtful and strategic manner." Springer decided to become a lawyer when she was in high school, citing the TV drama L.A. Law as a key influence. She trained as a tax lawyer before finding her passion in tax-exempt groups, which combine her core interests—"public policy, strategy, communications, and community development"—in one career. "I'm privileged to work with clients who are addressing poverty in our neighborhoods, funding quality schools, creating a safety net for health care, and training the future technology workforce," she says. "As general counsel to many of my clients, I have the opportunity to understand their company and policy objectives, while participating in the development and execution of their short- and long-term strategies. My legal career at Ice Miller has allowed me to build a personally fulfilling career that integrates my faith and missions with meaningful community impact."
Ice Miller, Indianapolis, IN
Recognized since 2009
Bever Dye's Hellen L. Haag isn't just a lawyer specializing in nonprofit and trusts-and-estates law—she's a frequent lecturer on those topics, too, and makes sure to find time to engage in civic and volunteer work. She sits on the board of HopeNet, a leadership-coaching organization, is a member of the Downtown Rotary Club of Wichita, and donates time as well to Reading Is Fundamental, a children's-literacy nonprofit.
Bever Dye, Wichita, KS
Recognized since 2009