First New York-Based Law Firm Wholly Dedicated to Serving Religious Institutions and Individuals Launches

Nelson Madden Black Founded by Three Lawyers of Different Faiths,
Common Purpose

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–In a world where religion is too often used as a tool to divide, three
lawyers of different religious backgrounds have come together with a
common purpose to serve the legal needs of all faiths and faithful. With
its launch today, Nelson
Madden Black LLP
becomes the first private law firm based in New
York, and one of only a handful nationwide, specifically dedicated to
the legal representation of religious institutions and individuals.

“There are over 7,000 places of worship in New York City, and they need
lawyers who understand their issues,” said co-founder Jonathan
. “Religious organizations have been underserved by our
profession. Meeting their needs is the calling of our firm.”

Two of the firm’s founders have been ordained in different capacities,
and all have held leadership positions in their faiths. Before the
launch of Nelson Madden Black they spent decades separately contributing
to religious life in New York and shaping the law affecting it. In 2004,
Nelson won a highly publicized case on behalf of the Fifth Avenue
Presbyterian Church, establishing its constitutional right to minister
to the homeless on its steps. John
, who sits on the real estate committee of the Episcopal
Diocese of New York, served as general counsel for the Lincoln Center
Development Project, Inc. during the $1.2 billion renovation of the
performing arts center—a project of great relevance to religious
institutions with historic properties. Barry
, an ordained cantor who served congregations for 30 years
before stepping down to start the firm, has represented religious
institutions and clergy in a variety of matters including employment
disputes, governance issues, intraorganizational conflicts, and even
criminal proceedings.

The three founders discovered they shared a desire to use their
professional talents to support religious entities and a belief that
their informed perspective could benefit clients. “Banks and
pharmaceutical companies expect to be served by lawyers who understand
their organizations. Religious clients should expect no less,” Black
said. “In fact, given the unique needs of religious entities and the
specialized laws that affect them, it’s vital for them to have counsel
who are part of their world and profoundly understand it. That’s what
we’re providing.”

In past work, the founders have advised on issues ranging from the
termination of clergy to church lease negotiations to the victimization
of a congregation in a mortgage-fraud scheme. Their clients have
included Hindu temples, Christian ministers, rabbis and cantors, Muslim
refugees fleeing religious persecution, and major evangelical

The firm, which will provide a full suite of legal services to its
clients, has already begun hiring and sees substantial growth
opportunity ahead. “Of course it’s useful to have years of experience in
representing the religious community,” Nelson said. “But each of us also
has a passion for this work. We are building that into our institutional

While Nelson, Madden and Black bring diverse religious backgrounds to
their enterprise, it should not be a surprise that the three have taken
a harmonious approach. Black, the former cantor, is not the firm’s only
singer; as undergraduates separated by a year at Yale, Nelson and Madden
both belonged to the school’s famous Whiffenpoofs a cappella group.
“Song is invariably part of religious life. For better or worse, so are
legal issues,” Madden said. “That’s why we founded Nelson Madden Black.”

About Nelson Madden Black LLP

Founded by three partners of different faiths, Nelson
Madden Black
provides a full spectrum of litigation, transactional
and advisory legal services to religious institutions and individuals.
It is the first New York-based law firm wholly dedicated to the needs of
religious clients, and is open to serving clients of all faiths.


on behalf of Nelson Madden Black
Kelsey Nason, 646-386-7804