A veteran nonprofit lawyer reflects on his career and the fundamentals of his profession.
Hopkins (Starting and Managing a Nonprofit Organization, 2017, etc.) often encounters bewilderment when he informs people he’s a nonprofit lawyer, and so it makes sense he would write a book explaining what precisely that means. The author is inarguably an expert on the topic, having practiced law for nearly 50 years, a wealth of experience chronicled in the portion of the volume devoted to autobiographical remembrance. After a year attending Flint Junior College in Michigan and a stint working in Washington, D.C., he transferred to the University of Michigan, where he majored in political science (he wishes he chose English literature in hindsight). He graduated in 1964 and subsequently earned a degree in law from the George Washington University School of Law in 1967. Hopkins completed a master’s degree in tax law from the same institution and began teaching university courses and ultimately became a professor at the University of Kansas Law School in 2015, finishing a doctorate there. His work experience at seven law firms is also cataloged in great detail. But the bulk of the book is devoted to an exhaustive account of the fundamentals of nonprofit tax law and practice—the last section describes the 150 most fundamental elements. The author’s unfailingly lucid study seems designed for someone considering a career as a nonprofit lawyer—it’s unclear who else would benefit from such a comprehensive overview. The volume as a whole is charmingly, if eccentrically, eclectic—Hopkins combines a surprisingly candid memoir with an encyclopedic primer on nonprofit law. He expresses himself in a breezy, curmudgeonly style—he bristles at the conflation of lawyer with attorney and the use of “not-for-profit” in place of nonprofit. Most importantly, the author is a natural teacher and a seasoned writer, and as a result, his overview of the subject is likely as good if not better than any other available. He even supplies a thoughtful account of the political philosophy that undergirds the creation of tax exemption.
An impressively thorough introduction to the basic elements of nonprofit law.