Jess is the owner of Birken Law Office PLLC, a boutique law firm serving nonprofits and charitable entities with their compliance and operational issues. Jess empowers nonprofits to achieve their mission by doing things right. She connects clients with the right tools, right coaching and right contacts. Ms. Birken is a nationally recognized attorney both for her service and understanding of the nonprofit & charitable sector as well as for her innovative subscription based law firm model. Listen to Jess' podcast Charity Therapy on your favorite podcast player.
BA, Sociology, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
JD, Mitchell Hamline School of Law, Magna Cum Laude
MA, Nonprofit Management, Hamline University School of Business
Ms. Birken is the former CEO & Managing Partner at Urban Birken PLLC, a boutique firm that focused on serving the nonprofit community and started her own firm in 2016. Jess has extensive non-legal experience working inside nonprofit organizations for most of her career prior to law school as well as after attaining her masters.
Before becoming a private practice attorney, Ms. Birken served inside a mid-sized national nonprofit organization, Pheasants Forever. In that role she managed ~$50,000,000 in state and federal government grants and worked on hundreds of conservation real estate transactions. Jess is deeply experienced in the reality of federal grants management across the entire life cycle. Ms. Birken has a deep understanding of the norms and best practices of the nonprofit sector, as well as the legal and regulatory environment these organizations exist within. This expertise was developed through her academic work obtaining a Masters in Nonprofit Management, in the work environment and through private practice experience.
When starting a new nonprofit, most founders are focused on their mission. Who are they going to be? What kind of work will they do? What impact are they going to make? But those aren’t the only things nonprofit founders need to decide. They also need to decide on the structure of the nonprofit and how it will function, too.
Here’s the thing: I wish my clients understood that a nonprofit's public charity status is NOT everything. It might be necessary and important, sure. It helps communicate to donors that the nonprofit is a public charity....But it’s certainly not the end-all, be-all of a successful nonprofit.
Working with nonprofit organizations, I deal with a LOT of people problems. And it makes sense, right? When you ask a group of people passionate about a cause (aka, the board of directors) to come together to make collective decisions…disagreements and confrontations are inevitable.
Feeding Our Future (FOF) was a Minnesota food assistance nonprofit that was awarded millions in federal grant funds in the past few years. FOF passed those funds through to other small organizations and businesses to provide food to children, primarily BIPOC and immigrant children in the Twin Cities and beyond.
So, what does this have to do with nonprofits, you ask? Well, as a lawyer for nonprofits, I've seen lots of organizations go through the process of selecting new leaders – and not all of them do it right, especially when an insider is involved. This Jeopardy host situation reminded me of those cases.
Dissolution can be a happy occasion (yay, we accomplished our mission!) or it can be very sad and emotional. But no matter what brings a nonprofit to that point, the decision to dissolve is a big one. And, to the surprise of some folks, that decision is just the very beginning of what can be a very long process
As schools are called off for the rest of the year, toilet paper flies off the shelves, and shelter-in-place orders are announced, anxieties are high. Everyone is worried about money, jobs, health, how to stay sane in the coming weeks – or at least I'm pretty sure it's not just me! And then there's another layer of worry – the worry that comes with running a small nonprofit in the midst of an international crisis.
Lately I've been noticing a lot of chatter on the internet about how you know which charities to donate to. There seems to be a general suspicion that nonprofits of all sizes who are seeking donations are swindling people out of their hard-earned money. Or at least that you can't trust these organizations and that it's easy to make the wrong decision.
I work with a lot of nonprofit founders, and all of them have a certain kind of pride in their work. And they should! Lots of people have ideas, but there's not that many people out there who are willing to put their time, effort, knowledge, and money into it. We need entrepreneurial founders in the nonprofit sector.
The reality is, starting and running a nonprofit is more than just the mission-driven work. Taking the time to understand the organizing documents, the Articles of Incorporation and the Bylaws, will help the organization going forward.
David D. Gibbons has 45 years of experience in Banking, Risk Evaluation and Risk Management, and Bank Regulation. He is widely recognized as an accomplished financial services executive with unique perspectives as a Former Chief Risk Officer HSBC, former Senior Bank Regulator (both policy and supervision), Chief Risk Officer, Deputy Comptroller for Credit Risk and Troubled Banks at Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and Banking Consultant (shadow regulator).
Litigation Support - Mr. Gibbons provides expert consulting and expert testifying services to the financial services industry. He has participated in over 20 expert witness engagements in banking, bank regulation, credit and lending, and financial services. Mr. Gibbons is a trusted advisor to banks on regulatory, risk, and compliance matters, particularly troubled banks. He is effective both as an individual contributor or in team leadership role.
Areas of Expertise:
Banking Compliance Risk
Banking Regulation and Enforcement
Troubled Institution Identification / Remediation
Enterprise Risk Management
Commercial and Retail Credit
Lending and Credit Risk Evaluation / Risk Management
Board Governance and Oversight
Director and Officer Insurance Disputes
Unfair, Abusive, and Deceptive Practices
FDIC Loss Sharing Disputes
Liquidity / Capital Adequacy
Honors / Awards - Mr. Gibbons has been honored with the following awards for his service in the field of Banking / Finance:
Hugh McCulloch Award
U.S. Department of the Treasury Special Act Awards
U.S. Department of the Treasury Silver Eagle Awards
U.S Department of the Treasury, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
Panorama Consulting Group specializes in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems and has multiple testifying experts for failed software litigation. This high-profile firmis called upon to investigate the feasibility of litigation, provide software expert witness testimony, and build background reporting for some of the industry’s highest-profile software lawsuits. They have worked with organizations ranging from multi-national conglomerates to boutique and large law firms, as well as state offices of the Attorney General.
As independent enterprise software experts, Panorama Consulting Group has hands-on experience with hundreds of software vendors. Their firm is not tied to a single law firm or software vendor, allowing them to focus on all types of clients and industries.
Litigation Support: The experts at Panorama Consulting Group work for both plaintiffs and defendants, software vendors and system integrators, and their customers. Their differentiator is using a team-based approach to provide expertise beyond just the testifying expert, which is cost-effective and efficient for their clients. They have multiple software expert witnesses available for provision of reports, depositions, and testimonies.
Fraud and Misrepresentation
Breach of Contract
“Off-the-shelf” Software Capability Misrepresentation and Claims
Undefined Roles / Poorly Executed Responsibilities (Internal project team, VAR, ERP vendor, ERP consultant, or system integrator)
Lack of Skills and Competencies
Poor Project Management
Poor Benefits Realization
Poor Implementation Planning, Resourcing and Budgeting
Following a failed ERP implementation, this state government agency was analyzing the feasibility of a lawsuit against its software selection and implementation partner. The government agency had contracted with the consulting firm to assist in the replacement of its tax collection systems but was forced to stop work after nearly two years of delays and inadequate staffing.
Panorama’s Expert Witness team was retained to provide a forensic analysis and written report to the court regarding the failed implementation of a major software developer’s ERP/payroll system. The goal of the implementation was to allow for the generation of accurate and traceable employee payrolls for a large governmental entity.