Law firms

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Top Law Firms 1

We have compiled a list of the 10 top legal firms who have expertise working with investment firms wanting to work with the CDFI in order to qualify for tax incentives. All but one of the firms on our list have offices in California. The criteria for this list was extremely specific and in order to compile it, it was necessary for us to break down our search into parts in order to fulfill each of the components.

As the request was interested in firms who had experience obtaining tax incentives for their clients we initiated our research by searching for the top firms handling tax law. We obtained this initial list through U.S. News who has a ranking system based off a survey sent to clients and professional references of various legal firms. The survey collects responses regarding, cost, expertise, responsiveness, professionalism and whether they would recommend the firm.

We then narrowed down our results by determining, through examination of each firm's website, which had expertise working with investment firms wanting to work with the CDFI to qualify for tax incentives for investing in low-income areas. All the firms listed below met this requirement.

We were also asked to prioritize our search by firms having a big "footprint" in California. To do this we then ordered our results by their presence in the state. Since, not all the company websites listed the number of employees working at each office, we chose to measure the size of their footprint by the number of offices located within the state.


This firm has the largest footprint in California and a presence in the state for nearly 30 years. They currently have seven offices, spread between Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland, Palo Alto, and San Diego. All of their statewide offices work together and the firm focuses in many areas including business, tax, and real estate and investment.

Amelia Lewis, a lawyer working for Dentons' Real Estate law practice, is a CDI fund reviewer for both the New Markets Tax Credit and CDFI Program.

Greenberg Traurig LLP

This is the firm on our list with the second largest footprint in California. They have five offices one each in Los Angeles, Irvine, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Palo Alto. The partners at their California locations work within various legal areas but the firm focus on tax, corporate, and government law & policy.

This firm provides guidance directly on their website regarding qualified opportunity zones, CDFI and the various tax credits available. They work with their clients to maximize after-tax benefits.

Arnold & Porter LLP

This firm's California 3 offices are in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Palo Alto. They are one 30 largest legal firms in San Fransisco. The same office is one of the top practices in the areas of investment management, labor and employment and tax law.

This firm hosted the Peer Forum where "senior executives in the CDFI Banking sector" meet to discuss the influencers affecting CDFI banks.

Alston & Birds LLP

This firm has two offices in California, one in Los Angeles and the other in Palo Alto. The Los Angeles office which it opened in 2008 would be the location with a focus on finance, tax, and corporate law.

Aliston & Bird was the firm which represented Bancorp South during their $8.5 million dollar investment in Liberty Financial Services, a CDFI.

mayer brown

Opened an office in Los Angeles in 1985, which plays an integral part in the rest of the firm's business.

In an article published by CNBC Lawrence E. Platt, a partner at Mayer Brown is quoted about his opinion on CDFI lenders.

Blank Rome LLP

They have two offices in California, one in San Francisco (open 2014) the other in Los Angeles (open 2008). Both offices work within the areas of corporate law. The Los Angeles law also providing a focus in the areas of tax and real estate law.

Blank and Rome help their clients to create CDE's (community development entities) aiding them in their application for credits from various CDFI's.

Fox ROthschild LLP

With two California offices, one each in Los Angeles and San Fransisco the firm focuses on corporate, real estate, business succession, labor & employment and tax & wealth planning.

This article discusses how Mark Connot an attorney at Fox Rothschild completed $19.8 million deal which was affiliated with Clearinghouse CDFI for development in a Nevada opportunity area.

Holland & Knight LLP

This firm has two offices in California. Their Los Angeles and San Francisco offices cover corporate, taxation and real estate law.

This firm closely follows legislation, and policy rules issued by the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) so that it can guide its clients regarding the most up to date tax credits.

Ballard Spahr LLP

This firm has the smallest footprint, with only one California office is located in Los Angeles. Their practice focuses on the areas of business, finance, real estate, and industry.

The public finance departments and tax groups of this firm have experience working with tax incentive programs for economically distressed areas. They provide their clients with regular updates on guidance provided on Opportunity Zones by the CDFI.

Bracewell LLP

This firm has no California offices, and therefore no footprint in the state as based on our criteria.

The firm does have experience with CDFI's and negotiated a "consent" between Metro United Bank the California Department of Financial Institutions (CDFI)


Of the 10 firms on our list, the two that have the largest footprint in California are Dentons and Greenberg Traurig LLP. Dentons has operated for 30 years in California and has seven offices throughout the state. One of the lawyers at Dentons' firm, Amelia Lewis, is a CDI fund reviewer for the CDFI Program and the New Markets Tax Credit.
Greenberg Traurig LLP has five offices in the state. This firm also offers guidance on CDFI, various tax credits, and qualified opportunity zones.
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Top Law Firms 2

Compiled below is a list of 10 nationally-ranked law firms with experience assisting in the formation, application process, subsequent development strategies and operating issues related to CDE’s. From Butler Snow Law Firm (which advertises its involvement in the New Markets Tax Credit since the program’s inception) to Stinson Leonard Street LLP (who specifically caters to a full suite of CDE-related needs), we have presented a list of 10 nationally-ranked CDE-related firms.


We began by searching for reputable organizations which have extensive experience reviewing businesses in the public sector. U.S. News’ ranking of 2018 "Best Law Firms" relies upon an extensive vetting process to determine which firms make the cut, and also has the benefit of 35 years of law-related business ranking experience. Among the criteria for inclusion was clientele size and inclusion of at least one attorney within the firm in The Best Lawyers in America list. Considering that listing merely ranked firms within tiers and not specifically against one another, below we have linked each firm's particular ranking page within its listing.

Armed with this list, we then scoured registry databases and consumer referral websites for law firms with CDE affiliations. While there is no publicly available database for law firms with the requested criteria, the nationally-ranked top firms listed below are experienced with assisting CDE operations and formation.

Considering the "U.S. News Best Law Firms" rankings only group firms within tiers and not a listed number, we are including a quote from U.S. News which reads:

"The National and Metro Tier 1 rankings will also be published in print in our Eighth Edition of "Best Law Firms" and in the Fourth Annual "Legal Issue" highlighting our National Tier 1 firms with legal content provided by firms in collaboration with Best Lawyers and U.S. News."

Unfortunately, we were unable to source an exact location or further mention of these publications which would include a numbered ranking system, which may indicate these publications will only be distributed within industry circles.

Butler Snow Law Firm

4 National Rankings & 122 Metro Rankings

Butler Snow Law Firm’s history of working with the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) goes back to the program’s beginning at both the “federal and state level.” They specifically list “formation and certification of community development entities” within their services. This firm has represented clients in all 50 states and in more than 30 countries. Chambers USA describes Butler Snow Law Firm as a “dominant force” with a team of attorneys who have achieved national prominence because of “sheer, unambiguous quality.

Duane Morris Law Firm

28 National Rankings & 100 Metro Rankings

Duane Morris has experience assisting with proper formation, application and implementation of federal benefits associated with CDE status. They offer a full host of representation services tailored to the CDE market.

Stites & Harbison PLLC

8 National Rankings & 83 Metro Rankings

While easily confirmed as one of the top law firms, Stites & Harbison does not specifically advertise their CDE expertise. However, we found an article from 2013 detailing their “Tax Credit Service Group”, which mentions the firm’s assistance to developers and investors. A search of their attorneys resulted in three being listed within the Community Development sphere. Awards received by Stites & Harbison include placing in the top 20% of all law firms by "BTI Consulting Group's Client Service A-Team 2015," having more than 70% of members and counsel listed in in Martindale-Hubbell as AV®-rated, and 14 attorneys being named "litigation stars by Benchmark Litigation magazine for 2017."

Buchalter Law Firm

7 National Rankings & 17 Metro Rankings

Buchalter Law Firm lists over 100 lawyers with “deep expertise in all aspects of tax credit transactions”, specifically mentioning community development entities. Buchalter is "consistently ranked among the leading law firms in California by Chambers and Partners, Best Lawyers, The Daily Journal and the Los Angeles Business Journal. It is also ranked among the leading firms nationally by American Legal Media and the National Law Journal."

Pepper Hamilton LLP

23 National Rankings & 64 Metro Rankings

Pepper Hamilton provides a comprehensive service range within the affordable housing and CDE spheres. This firm not only assists in the formation and application process for CDE's, but also has experience with the full range of CDE-related issues that may arise after formation. Pepper Hamilton has "more than 425 lawyers in 13 offices across the United States" that represent a "diverse firm of men and women from a broad spectrum of backgrounds." Partners in the firm include "women, attorneys of color, members of the LGBT community and their allies, and attorneys with disabilities."

Jones Day Law Firm

42 National Rankings & 210 Metro Rankings, as well as 2 "Law Firm of the Year" awards.

Jones Day advertises competence in a robust range of CDE-related services, both before certification and after. This firm also boasts an impressive nationwide network of attorneys with the skills to handle a wide array of CDE needs. Jones Day Law Firm is the only firm to "earn top ratings year after year... Since the inception of the BTI Client Service Ranking 17 years ago, Jones Day has ranked #1 10 times, including a #1 ranking in 2018." The company also "became the only firm in the history of the BTI survey to achieve 'Best of the Best' status in all 17 categories that drive superior client service for two consecutive years."

McAfee & Taft Law Firms

This Oklahoma-based firm has been involved with over 50 economic development projects and lists CDE’s as one of the niches they serve. In 2018, the firm earned top marks in Benchmark Litigation and "18 of the firm’s attorneys the most of any law firm in Oklahoma were singled out for recognition, 15 named 'Local Litigation Stars' and four more named 'Future Stars.'" Moreover, "McAfee & Taft was top-ranked in Oklahoma in the total number of attorneys listed in the 2018 edition of The Best Lawyers in America."

Frost Brown Todd LLC

18 National Rankings & 144 Metro Rankings

Frost Brown Todd has a network of over 1,000 attorneys able to assist in a wide range of services. This firm is experienced with all aspects of CDE formation and compliance, as well as the minutiae of complications that may arise after formation. Frost Brown Todd regularly counsels Fortune 500 companies, including AIG, Ford, Toyota, UPS, and U.S. Bank. The firm has been "recognized as one of the top law firms in the country for client service" and "was noted as being particularly strong in the areas of Client Focus, Commitment to Help and Providing Value for the Dollar and was a Best of the Best in Regional Reputation."

Stinson Leonard Street LLP

35 National Rankings & 129 Metro Rankings

Stinson Leonard Street is the only firm on our list who specifically mentions successfully closing hundreds of CDE’s. They have a full suite of services available for tax-related, development, and investor issues. In 2017, "Stinson was one of only 54 firms singled out by corporate counsel for having leading collaboration across the firm and named in the 'Law Firms with the Best Associates' report as having 'standout associates.'" Moreover, "21 of the firms' different practices were ranked among the top practice groups in the 2017 edition of Chambers USA."

Lathrop Gage

18 National Rankings & 74 Metro Rankings

This firm has a nationwide network of attorneys advertising their “Tax Credit Finance Group” geared toward CDE’s, lenders and developers. They specifically offer guidance to CDE’s throughout all phases of formation and subsequent development. In 2017, 22 Lathrop Gage attorneys were recognized by Chambers USA" and 78 attorneys were named Best Lawyers in America. Sixty attorneys at Lathrop Gage were recognized as Super Lawyers in Missouri and Kansas, while Fortune Magazine named Lathrop Gate as a "go-to law firm."


The United States has an impressive number of law firms which cater to CDE-related needs. Since the inception of the New Markets Tax Credit, many firms and individual attorneys have begun gearing services toward community development, HUD-housing and CDE-related needs.

From Part 02