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Our Story

Our firm was founded by lawyers committed to serving – and being an integral part of – the public interest movement in the United States and globally.  For more than forty years, we have continued in that tradition.  We work as partners with organizations and individuals working on issues of social, economic, health, and environmental justice and advise them on ways in which the law can advance their goals of social change.

Our firm was founded in 1969 as Berlin, Roisman, and Kessler and was one of the first private public-interest law firms in the United States.  The firm helped establish many of the nonprofit peace, environmental and women’s rights groups that are now major institutions.  Our firm won a national reputation for its strong and innovative expertise in the fields of nonprofit tax and election law, as well as environmental, employment, and affordable housing law.  While our reputation was built on our ability to help clients find inventive legal solutions in these areas, we have also always met our clients’ needs for legal assistance with the day-to-day “business” of running a nonprofit organization, providing help with corporate compliance, governance, leases, vendor contracts, grant agreements, and similar matters.

Our unique expertise at the intersection of the tax and election laws governing lobbying and political advocacy by nonprofit organizations provided leading nonprofit advocacy groups with critical guidance and continues to be a core aspect of our firm's practice today.  In the early 1970s, with the passage of the Federal Election Campaign Act and the creation of the Federal Election Commission, we helped nonprofit organizations create their first PACs.  We advised 501(c)(3)s about the lobbying rules when Congress amended those rules in 1976 and worked closely with our clients in the long process before the IRS that led to the final regulations that implemented those rules   issued at last in 1990.  We helped to pioneer the use of so-called “MCFL organizations” to allow nonprofits to speak plainly about candidates for elected office.  We shared our expertise in this area by writing plain-language legal guides on the lobbying rules for 501(c)(3)s; the law governing the creation, use, and transfer of mailing lists by nonprofit organizations; and the seminal work on the law governing lobbying and electoral activity on the Internet.

Over the years, we have also volunteered a significant amount of our time working for changes in public policy to reduce the regulatory burden on advocacy groups and expand the scope of their permissible activities.  We have worked with Congress, the IRS, the Federal Election Commission, and state regulators, to this end and collaborated in efforts led by organizations including the American Bar Association, the Alliance for Justice, and OMB Watch to improve the law and enforcement in this area.

Our environmental and nuclear safety work likewise dates from the early days of the firm.  During the 1970s and 1980s, the firm was a leader in the emerging field of environmental law, setting the standard for federal agency compliance with the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act in Calvert Cliffs Coordinating Committee v. Atomic Energy Commission, 449 F.2d 1109 (D.C.Cir. 1971).  We represented national and regional environmental groups in ground-breaking nuclear safety cases such as the Three Mile Island restart proceeding, the construction permit and operating license hearings for the Seabrook nuclear power plant, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s rulemaking on the environmental impacts of spent fuel disposal.  We won significant penalties against strip miners under the federal Surface Mining Act, and against waterway polluters under the Clean Water Act.  More recently we have advised clients opposing the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility and won a court ruling to require the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to take the threat of terrorist attacks into account in the nuclear facility licensing process (San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace v. NRC, 449 F.3d 1016 (9th Cir., 2006), cert. denied, 559 U.S. 1166 (2007).

From its earliest years, the firm has also had an active employment practice.  Members of the firm have helped individuals vindicate their rights to be treated fairly in the work place, free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.  Over the years, the firm has also worked with its clients to help them understand and comply with new employment statutes and new developments in the employment law field, such as the federal and D.C. Family and Medical Leave Acts, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the D.C. Sick and Safe Leave Act, and recent enforcement trends in the wage and hour area. 


We look forward to continuing this legacy of practicing law with a commitment to public service in the decades to come.


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