News - Capital University Law School

CapLaw Pivots to Offer Courses on COVID-19 and Nonprofit Law

1/5/2021  - 

Capital University Law School Adjunct Professor Michael Farley, LL.M.’17, L’14remembers the electives he took as a law school student helped move him toward a career in the corporate and nonprofit sector. It wasn’t the path he had originally intended to take.

“It’s been my experience as a student, alum and now as an instructor that we produce practice-ready attorneys,” says Farley, who earned his juris doctor in 2014 and his master of laws in 2017 – both from CapLaw. “We produce lawyers who can think in more ways than just one. We’re adapting to the world around us in Ohio, the Midwest and the nation writ large.”

Farley, vice president of government affairs and general counsel for the Ohio Insurance Institute, has been an adjunct professor at CapLaw for the past three years, and will be teaching a new semester course in Nonprofit Law, which recently received approval from the law school’s Academic Affairs Committee.

He says that as a child growing up he benefited from nonprofit agencies like the local foodbanks and the Boys & Girls Clubs. He worked for the American Red Cross and the Boys & Girls Clubs prior to attending CapLaw and he serves on several nonprofit boards. He and his wife also support several local nonprofits. Those experiences combined with events over the summer involving civil rights protests – where CapLaw students participated – helped prompt him to suggest the course idea to Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Melinda S. Molina.

Personal experiences are “often the vehicle by which change is employed,” Farley says. He quickly put together the two-credit semester course, which begins in January and will highlight nonprofit governance, fiduciary duties, state laws, limitations on lobbying, private foundations, tax laws and charitable contributions.

He says after they take the class, students will “be pretty close to knowing how to start a nonprofit.” But, even if that’s not their goal, they also should be able to serve as a board trustee, act as counsel, or be able to advise on the formation and operation of a nonprofit entity.

Molina says CapLaw is agile enough to be able to quickly implement ideas for courses and put them forth for faculty approval.

Policymaking & Advocacy During COVID-19 is another topical course that recently received the green light. A one-credit winter intercession, it will be offered Jan. 4-8, 2021, and “will give students substantial experience involving the policymaking processes of the legislative and executive branches, and the ways that these branches interface with the judicial branch, all viewed through the lens of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic,” according to the description provided by Adjunct Professor Holly Gross, L‘15.

Gross, who was a student in Molina’s tort class at Capital, became an adjunct professor last spring and is vice president of government relations for the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. She approached her former professor with the idea of teaching the intercession, which Molina describes as focused and intensive.

"Each course will provide students with an opportunity to explore topics that lawyers around the country are currently facing,” Molina says of the two new offerings. “We are excited to offer the courses that will help students develop the advocacy and transactional skills needed to effectuate change.”

When the Policymaking & Advocacy During COVID-19 course was announced, immediately the 25 available slots were filled and there currently is a waiting list. Molina says it will be offered again, possibly as a summer intercession in 2021.

Gross says she suggested the course because, “It’s just so prevalent in everyone’s mind” and she wanted to equip students to be better able to respond during crises. “In a moment like now,” Gross says, “so much of the legal landscape, like everything else in life, is due to the pandemic.”

The course will examine government orders; COVID-19 legislation; the intersection of local, state and federal policymaking; and declarations of racism as a public health crisis. Students will conduct research, provide legal analysis, draft policy and give testimony in a mock legislative committee hearing.

Gross says CapLaw students benefit from being in the capital city with close access to the Statehouse and the ability to gain experience in observing the Legislature.

“All lawyers are advocates, but the legislative branch and advocacy are very different,” she says. “That skill has been absolutely amplified during the pandemic. We all have so many new layers and restrictions placed upon us. How can we be advocates for our clients? My goal is that my students will learn that skill through this course. Good lawyers pivot – that’s the beauty of the profession.”