Michael J. Cooney

Counsel to a wide range of charitable and other nonprofit entities, and those who support them, Mike Cooney provides the nonprofit corporate and tax-exempt context in which these organizations can drive mission and margin. He directs the firm’s focus in higher education and exempt organizations.

What do you focus on?

Focus on opportunities

My work optimizes the ability of nonprofits to accomplish their mission by identifying opportunities for enhanced fundraising and grant access, project management, governance and legal compliance. The approach benefits from the widest array of institutions and geographies, with a fundamental understanding of what makes nonprofit institutions successful in today’s competitive environment. The focus is largely structural, with an emphasis on sustainable and organic growth through systems that align the client’s resources and goals.

Tax benefits

That work takes many forms. Charitable institutions and their donors have an array of tax benefits available to help advance their mission. We understand those incentives and advise on how to increase their impact in today’s economy. That spans program-related investments by private foundations in technology and startup companies to the proper structuring of an integrated fundraising campaign and the development of communities around university campuses.


Good governance is vital to operations and fashion approaches that make the most of precious volunteer time and resources. That includes the use of multicorporate environments and joint ventures to accomplish exempt purposes.

Risk management

At the same time, we appreciate that success involves a degree of risk, so that when challenges arise our work involves the identification of a plan and resources necessary to continue the focus on success. In the highly regulated environment in which our clients exist, it is essential to be able to marshal such resources quickly and efficiently.

Life Sciences

I work with colleges and universities doing life science research as well as help donors and entrepreneurs wanting to take advantage of PRIs to advance life science research.

What do you see on the horizon?

The capacity of our nonprofit institutions to provide needed services and perspectives is being fundamentally challenged by economic forces and an increasingly hostile regulatory environment. Success will be rooted in new collaborations and new partners, drawing on the best practices of the business and governmental sectors, but making them our own.

IRS issues long-awaited guidance on donor-advised funds

Nonprofit & Government Times | June 29, 2018

Washington DC corporate partner Michael Cooney wrote this contributed article on donor-advised funds, a type of low-paperwork charitable trust, and how their use will change in light of new guidance and proposed regulations.

How nation’s new tax law might affect charitable organizations

Rochester Business Journal | December 14, 2017

Rochester private equity and investment funds partner Jeremy Wolk, M&A and corporate transactions counsel Anita Pelletier and Washington DC M&A and corporate transactions partner Mike Cooney authored this column about the impact of U.S. tax reform on nonprofits.


Michael J. Cooney


Washington, DC

Phone: 202-585-8188


Phone: 585-263-1534

New York

Phone: 212-224-7343

Fax: 866-743-0233

University of Virginia, J.D., Managing Editor, Virginia Journal of International Law

Hamilton College, B.A., magna cum laude (Senior Fellow)

New York

District of Columbia


Michael was selected, through a peer-review survey, for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© 2021 in the fields of Nonprofit/Charities Law and Tax Law. Michael has been listed in Best Lawyers since 2007, and was named Best Lawyers® 2017 and 2019 Non-Profit/Charities Law “Lawyer of the Year” in Washington, DC.

Mike has also been recognized in Super Lawyers New York—Metro in Nonprofit, Schools & Education, and Health Care (2012). A Thomson Reuters publication, Super Lawyers evaluates lawyers based on a peer-review surveys and independent research.

Mike is a member of the American, New York State, District of Columbia, and Florida bar associations and the National Association of College and University Attorneys. He is currently a board member of Charity Navigator, Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, and the George Eastman Museum. Mike is honored to have served on New York Attorney’s Leadership Committee on Nonprofit Revitalization.

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