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We serve as outside general counsel to scores of associations and cooperative companies.

Our Work

We help clients manage the full breadth of their legal strategies: governance, employment, real estate, intellectual property, vendor and event contracts, data security and licensing, and compliance with antitrust, privacy, tax, election law, and other regulatory imperatives. We team with our clients to create a seamless base of legal support.

How We Help

Adopt Governance Best Practices

To advise on bylaws and governance policies, we develop a thorough understanding of your governance objectives and operations that promote governance best practices, and update those practices as the needs of the industry and the organization evolve. We have helped boards and staff successfully defend against claims involving their oversight of the association, and we are adept at identifying opportunities to help leadership build consensus around improved, strategic governance operations. We regularly advise boards on their oversight activities and their policies governing board processes, management of conflicts, executive reviews and compensation, risk mitigation, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).

Implement Antitrust Compliance Programs

Communications amongst members are ripe to be viewed as violations of the antitrust laws. AFS drafts antitrust policies and documents, advises on how to inform and educate members about compliance, provides counsel during board and committee meetings, and responds to government investigations and private litigation subpoenas.

Review, Negotiate, and Manage Contracts

AFS assists associations to manage their contracts, with extensive experience drafting and negotiating contracts with conference facilities and hotels, office leases, association/customer management systems, vendors and service providers, fundraisers, advertisers, and paid and unpaid speakers, as well as agreements with federal, state, and local government agencies. We also provide assistance developing and implementing partnership and intercompany agreements with businesses, foundations, educational institutions, and other nonprofits.

Develop and Support Employment Policies

Ranked a top Labor and Employment Practice in Washington, DC, by Chambers USA, AFS covers the spectrum of employer/employee relations, including extensive experience handling employment issues for trade associations of all sizes.

Employee Handbook and Policies

The employee handbook should accurately reflect the association’s policies, to help maintain a stable work environment. With state laws evolving almost every year, and many associations operating with employees working in various states, it is imperative that these policies and internal procedures be updated to comply with each state’s requirements.

Training and Counsel

Our attorneys act as advisors, negotiators, advocates, and litigators, representing primarily employers in personnel, labor relations, employment discrimination, occupational safety, benefits, immigration, health care, public accommodations, and other employment-related matters. We offer practical employment procedures designed to prevent workplace disputes from escalating into legal disputes. And when litigation becomes necessary, we use our advocacy skills and experience to protect and defend our clients. Additionally, we have significant experience advising employers on workplace security, alternative dispute resolution, and temporary workers.

Protect Intellectual Property

AFS has extensive experience assisting clients with the protection of their registered trademark. Our attorneys conduct trademark availability searches and register trademarks for nonprofit clients in the United States Patent and Trademark Office. AFS is currently responsible for approximately 75,700 active trademark applications and registrations worldwide, including approximately 16,900 marks in North America and 2,500 formal trademark enforcement matters, i.e., oppositions, cancellations, and litigation, not including Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) filings.

Our technology transactions and e-commerce services include assisting nonprofits to procure, dispose of, and license intellectual property and conduct revenue-generating activities on the Internet. We regularly structure royalty licenses and other agreements to bring into nonprofits additional non-dues revenue through advertisement and affinity arrangements related to the nonprofit’s website, in publications, and at conferences and conventions.

We have experience in domain name disputes, and we draft and negotiate agreements regarding intellectual property rights, including multimedia transactions, technology transfer, co-branding, revenue sharing, procurement, product and software development, distribution, outsourcing, and system integration. We also counsel clients on Internet home page development, association email policies, hyperlinks, and electronic data interchange.

Defend Lawsuits and Claims, and Respond to Subpoenas and Investigations

AFS litigators are adept at helping nonprofit clients undertake an analysis of the potential benefits, costs, and risks of pursuing litigation strategies. We have a strong team of more than 100 trial lawyers who have won verdicts for local, national, and international clients in state and federal courts throughout the country. We also have an active appellate practice, and have argued cases before state and federal appellate courts throughout the country as well as before the United States Supreme Court.

The firm has significant experience conducting investigations and advising clients on disclosure to, and negotiations with, the government regarding regulatory noncompliance. We have represented myriad clients in investigations by Inspector Generals and US Attorneys’ Offices. We also have significant experience successfully defending clients that have been considered for suspension or debarment.

Protect Tax-exempt Status

Associations are typically regulated under the Internal Revenue Code as Section 501(c)(6) organizations and sometimes Section 501(c)(3) organizations, and they often have taxable or tax-exempt affiliates. Section 501(c) organizations are subject to a complex regulatory regime that informs a wide variety of their activities. Our tax attorneys have significant experience advising organizations on matters such as private inurement, providing particular services to members, executive compensation and the avoidance of intermediate sanctions where applicable, unrelated business income tax (UBIT), forming and working with for-profit and nonprofit affiliates, and other matters that can impact an organization’s tax-exempt status or result in excise tax penalties. 

Minimize UBIT

Associations often engage in a wide variety of revenue-generating activities that could potentially subject them to UBIT. From corporate sponsorships to trade shows to publications, our tax attorneys have significant experience helping associations structure their activities to help minimize their potential UBIT exposure.