LAWRENCE — One of the nation’s leading authorities on nonprofit law has joined the KU Law faculty as the Professor from Practice.
Bruce R. Hopkins, who has published more than 30 books in the field, will teach courses including Nonprofit and Tax-Exempt Organizations.
“I care very much about the role of nonprofit organizations, particularly charities, in U.S. society and try to pass along some of that passion in the classroom,” Hopkins said. “Lawyers, including young ones, have a tendency to serve on nonprofit boards. I want to instill in the students not only nonprofit law basics but a sense of the importance of this type of service.”
Early in his practice, Hopkins began teaching nonprofit law as an adjunct professor at George Washington University and authored the first book on the subject. After working at large firms in Washington, D.C., he joined a small firm to free up more time to write and speak. He started what is now the second longest-running national conference in the field and has written a monthly newsletter for 32 years. Most recently, Hopkins practiced for nearly two decades at Polsinelli PC in Kansas City, Missouri, where he helped build a substantial nonprofit law practice group.
Perhaps no lawyer would be better poised to blaze trails in the nonprofit arena than Hopkins, who witnessed the birth of the field. As a first-year associate in the D.C. firm of Williams, Myers & Quiggle, Hopkins was charged with attending hearings and issuing daily reports to partners on pending legislation that would become the Tax Reform Act of 1969.
“I did not realize it at the time, but I was, by osmosis, learning a considerable amount of the law of tax-exempt organizations, including what would be much new law,” Hopkins recalled.
After the bill passed, what had previously been a somnolent area of the law suddenly burgeoned. Articles flowed; conferences sprouted. Firm partners were inundated with speaking invitations, and Hopkins handled the overflow.
“There I was, practicing law for less than one year, out giving speeches about an area of the law,” he said. “But I had a wonderful advantage: I knew the basics of this new law because of my steeping at the congressional hearings, while the vast majority of conference attendees, including many seasoned tax lawyers, were wholly ignorant on the point. Few had been paying any attention to the speedy evolution of the Tax Reform Act.”
His conference presentations generated clients. Referrals and publications followed. Nearly 50 years later, Hopkins’ practice endures.
In the intervening years, he earned an LL.M. in taxation from George Washington University and taught briefly at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. He expects to graduate in May 2016 with a Doctor of Juridical Science from KU Law, where he has taught the nonprofit law course as an adjunct professor since 2008.
Hopkins opened a solo practice in Kansas City this summer and continues to edit and write books for John Wiley & Sons Inc. After 45 years of law practice, he is eager to focus more on teaching.
“I come from a family of teachers. I wanted to be a lawyer, but apparently some teaching genes came my way. The areas of tax law that I teach are rather complex, and I enjoy the challenge of presenting the material in a way the students can understand,” Hopkins said. “I also enjoy being at the KU law school. The more I am here, the more I want of the experience.”