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National Lawyers Guild: Leadership, Structure, and Financials

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Leadership, Structure, and Financials

The NLG is governed by a National Executive Committee that meets four times a year, and by a smaller Executive Council that makes decisions in between those meetings.

Suzanne Adely is listed as president-elect of the NLG as of January 2022. She is co-director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance, a labor-union-aligned coalition advocating for increased labor regulations and unionization in the food industry. From 2011 to 2014 she was the United Automobile Workers Global Organizing Institute’s India project coordinator. Adely is a co-founder of the Arab Workers Resource Center, and a member of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, Labor for Palestine, Al-Awda: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, and Block the Boat NY/NJ. She is also a member of the bureau of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers.

Elena L. Cohen was listed as president of the NLG as of January 2022, and also formerly held the position of president of the Guild’s New York City chapter. She is a partner at the law firm of Cohen Green PLLC, and is an adjunct associate professor in the City University of New York system.

The NLG operates as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization. It lists more than 50 local chapters on its website, some of which also have their own nonprofit tax-exempt statuses. Chapters vary significantly in their size and level of activity. The largest and most active chapters are located in New York City, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Michigan, and Massachusetts. The Guild also has more than 100 student chapters at American law schools.

In its 2020 annual report, the NLG reported 9,419 members, including 2,234 jailhouse lawyers. Membership had remained under about 2,500 from 2005 to 2015, but began to increase significantly in 2016.

In 2018, the NLG reported $636,925 in revenue and $771,050 in expenses. It collected $144,305 in membership dues, $129,465 in convention income, and $343,792 in contributions, gifts and grants. Most of its expenses were for salaries, wages, and other employee benefits, which combined for $433,309 in 2018. Membership dues are requested on a suggested sliding scale basis that ranges from $25 to $800 depending largely upon the member’s income. Membership for jailhouse lawyers is free.

The National Lawyers Guild Foundation (NLG Foundation) is a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit affiliated with the NLG. In 2019 it reported total revenue of $726,899 and net assets of $4,468,568, while in 2018 it reported total revenue of $2,513,776 and net assets of $4,485,887.

The NLG Foundation is an important source of revenue for the NLG national office. It provided over $1.05 million in grants to the national NLG from 2017 through 2019. During that same period, the NLG Foundation also made smaller grants to local NLG chapters in New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The NLG Foundation also serves as a fiscal sponsor for chapters that do not have their own IRS tax-exempt status.

Major organizational funders of the NLG Foundation include Greater Horizons, which provided $2,935,163 from 2017-2018; the Tides Foundation, which provided $1,030,500 from 2018-2019; the Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund, which provided $129,775 from 2017-2019; the Schwab Charitable Fund, which provided $133,700 from 2017-2020; and Warsh Mott Legacy, which provided $110,000 from 2016-2018. The CS Fund has provided matching grants to the NLG’s Mass Defense Program.

The NLG is also closely associated with two other separate 501(c)(3) nonprofits. The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild was originally formed as a committee of the NLG in 1971, and became a separate organization in 1981. It reported $1,127,832 in total revenue in 2019. The National Police Accountability Project also has its own tax-exempt status, though as of 2022 it describes itself as a project of the NLG on its website. It reported $217,944 in total revenue in 2019.


A version of this article was first published on InfluenceWatch, a project of the Capital Research Center. InfluenceWatch is an online resource that provides fact-based, accurate descriptions of the various influencers of public policy issues.