Demonstrating How Business Law and Community Services Go Hand in Hand

Jason Schwartz’09, tax attorney, shares how pro bono work fits into his career

Feb. 5, 2020

Jason Schwartz

Jason Schwartz ’09, Partner in the Tax Group of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP,  was drawn to law school out of an interest in analytical thinking and a quest for job security after graduating as an English major at NYU in ’05.

Ten years into his practice as a tax attorney in Cadwalader’s Washington, D.C office, Schwartz distills complex language into advice for clients. He recently received one of the best compliments a tax lawyer could get after publishing a practice portfolio on the taxation of collateralized loan obligations. “A non-tax lawyer called me and said, ‘You wrote everything that tax lawyers have been trying to tell me for the last 10 years but in English.’”

While it can be challenging enough for non-tax lawyers at his corporate and financial services clients to grasp some abstract concepts in tax, this informational gap can also thwart people from serving their community. Schwartz’s work as the supervisor of Cadwalader’s Not-for-Profit Incubator removes these tax “language barriers” to help people start their not-for-profits.

“Lots of people who want to set up a charitable organization just don’t know where to start,” Schwartz said. “They might have terrific ideas to help their communities, but they just don’t have lawyers to provide importance guidance.”

Schwartz also serves the WCL community as chair of AUWCL’s Advisory Council on Business Law.

“Jason really demonstrates how business law and a spirit of community service go hand in hand,” said Professor David Snyder, director of the Business Law Program. “He shows our students how serious work in business and tax law contributes to communities, not only by spurring investment and economic development but also through pro bono business and tax work that helps individual people in direct and concrete ways.”

Cadwalader’s Incubator has helped clients like Nadine Sylvester form the Rohan Levy Foundation, a Brooklyn, New York-based based nonprofit aimed at ending gun violence among at-risk youth in her community. Since attaining a tax exemption in 2018, the foundation can create educational opportunities for young men of color and offer a support system for families affected by gun violence.

The Incubator team has their finger on the pulse of the community, a skill Schwartz learned in law school while completing Professor Ken Anderson’s non-legal reading assignments. “Knowing the law is important, but great lawyers also understand the environment in which they work,” Schwartz said.

The Incubator has supported almost 300 organizations over the last ten years. From concept to concrete, the Incubator team helps prepare incorporation documents, state and IRS paperwork, and takes care of start-up expenses. After tax exemption status, these newly minted nonprofits go on to bring nutritious food to the underserved communities, expand pediatric research, support formerly incarcerated folks transition back into the workforce, bring creative arts programs to local kids, and more.

This type of pro bono work gives transactional lawyers Like Schwartz the opportunity to contribute skills to those beyond their natural client base. “We do for them what we do best, so we can send them on their way to do what they do best,” Schwartz said.

Trained as a classical pianist and passionate about music and creative writing, Schwartz has found that tax hasn’t dulled his love for the arts. He notes that with terms like stagflation, liquidity, time-tranching and hedging, “where can you find more poetic language than in the world of finance?”