Thoughts and opinions from the nonprofit world

An edited letter from the general counsel of NYSARC, Kathryn Jerian

Providing support and services to more than 60,000 individuals and families with intellectual and developmental disabilities, NYSARC Inc. is the largest nonprofit organization of its kind in New York with 55 chapters across the state.

Since joining the legal team at NYSARC in 2012, General Counsel Kathryn Jerian has become vital to the organization’s mission, leading its state office legal team and providing support to its board of governors, as well as various committees and chapters. We asked Jerian to describe her role with the organization, the challenges it faces, and what she’s learned about herself as a legal professional in her time with NYSARC.

An edited letter from her appears below.


As general counsel for the largest nonprofit in New York state, providing supports and services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and balancing resources at NYSARC Inc. is one of the most important skills to master in the organization’s mission to provide as much sound, thoughtful and thorough legal advice as possible on a limited budget with a very small number of staff.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, NYSARC operates through a number of chapters across the state, though many chapters do not have the benefit of full-time, in-house counsel to assist them in their incredibly complicated daily operations.

Nonprofits are known for working with austere funds and NYSARC is no different, especially in a changing environment where budget cuts, unfunded mandates, and dramatic changes to our system are at play every day. The morass of federal and state statutes and regulations is staggering, and changing all the time. State regulatory oversight, nonprofit law changes, Medicaid, and other corporate compliance obligations present an awesome responsibility, though none of that work should overshadow the critical work NYSARC does in supporting some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens or its mission to both advocate for the people it supports and services.

In some ways, NYSARC operates as a trade association by offering conferences and other training opportunities to its members and by keeping abreast of changes in the legal landscape and distilling and summarizing those changes for member-chapters. Part of the department’s responsibility is also to monitor and assess the impact of legislation and to counsel when a legislative fix might be beneficial in solving a specific problem.

“My primary job is to advise, support and protect the corporation from an operational perspective by ensuring that its policies are followed and that new policies are added or amended as the law evolve.”

However, as counsel to the corporation, my primary job is to advise, support and protect the corporation from an operational perspective by ensuring that its policies are followed and that new policies are added or amended as the law evolves. Between limited staffing resources and the complexity and variety of legal issues, I have found it is critical to partner with the right outside counsel who both understands the field and understands NYSARCs corporate structure. Chapters are often facing the same issues, so when we can find efficiencies in taking corporation-wide positions, we take advantage.

Before I came to NYSARC almost five years ago, I worked in a private litigation firm. I enjoyed the comradery and support that comes with working together every day with a large team of lawyers. There was a freedom to discuss legal theories and arguments at a conceptual level and try out those arguments from time to time with the courts—it could be a satisfying and creative process.

Here and now, chapters need concrete answers to specific questions, and quickly. Often, the health and safety of people is at stake. My advice must come with constructive and definitive solutions—otherwise it is rendered essentially useless. Risk assessment in the provision of advice is paramount because action will be taken one way or the other; my job is to support the best outcome with the least possible risk. It’s a much different universe than where I came from, but the sense of satisfaction in solving a problem in an inexpensive yet efficient and thorough way is immense. Selfishly, I also love that I learn something new all the time. I remember shortly after I got here for the first time I realized what the “practice of law” really meant, and it is still true many years down the road.



The piece highlighting my company, Bob Baker Enterprises, Inc., came out fabulous. Our company is in the new and used car sales and service industry. Everyone was great to work with and extremely professional. They produced a high-quality product and have provided expert assistance and guidance post-production of the article.
– Wade Poulson, General Counsel, Bob Baker Enterprises Inc.
It was a great honor to be featured in Vanguard Law. Working with every member of the team, from the initial interview with Erin Clark, through production with Victor Martins, writing the article with Taryn Plumb and creating the final content with Dave Gushee, was a true pleasure. Everyone was very professional, enthusiastic and supportive, and their creative approach and positive attitude clearly came through in the final product.
– Kevin C. Rakowski, Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, Compliance with Radian Group Inc.
As promised in advance, my feature in Vanguard has increased my visibility within the profession and prompted more than a few people I have not communicated with recently to reconnect. One of the Italian law firms I have used in the past is now in the process of interviewing me for an article on their website and tweeting out the feature story. Activity and the number of people connecting with me on LinkedIn has soared, which is great. The Vanguard writers and editorial staff were great to work with—highly professional and made the effort to make the experience both fun and rewarding (they were also respectful of the time pressures and demands all lawyers face). I was very pleased with the experience and the final outcome. Needless to say, I have been very pleased. All in all working with Vanguard has been a very positive experience which generated good publicity for both Shawcor and myself. My sincere thanks.
– Tim Hutzul, General Counsel, ShawCor Ltd.
I was honored to be the subject of an article. I enjoy reading Vanguard articles and seeing how other attorneys got to their positions and see their jobs. It's also interesting to see how different law firms partner with the subjects of the articles.
– Henry Marquard, in-house counsel, Stanley Consultants Inc.


Summer I 2024



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