Turning concepts into law
Attorney Bill Boyd III knows that some changes happen quickly, such as going from having no children to having three, while other changes, such as seeing business law changed, take much more time.
Iowa City native Boyd moved to Des Moines in 1994, after spending eight years practicing law in Washington, D.C. He and his wife were new parents of triplets when he became involved with the Iowa State Bar Association and began his path to improve Iowa business law for both non-profit and for-profit businesses. Boyd had been a part of enough non-profit organizations and had specialized in business law long enough to know that the laws could use some fine-tuning.
“Through my experience and serving on boards and advising boards on Iowa law, I saw the opportunity and the need to revise our current non-profit law,” Boyd said.
Boyd, who works in the business corporate department of Nyemaster, Goode, West, Hansell & O’Brien P.C., is also heavily involved in volunteering with the Bar Association and its business law section. His work to update Iowa’s non-profit corporation act began in the late 1990s, and in April of this year, the recommendations from the Non-Profit Corporations Committee that he chaired were finally adopted into Iowa’s legislation.
“Through the Bar Association, there is a mechanism set up so that lawyers can get involved in promoting legislative changes, and I saw that through our committees in the business law section that this could be done.” Boyd said.
Jim Carney, who acts as the legislative council for the Iowa State Bar Association, described Boyd’s efforts as “a major undertaking.”
“Here’s a guy who’s continuing to practice law and maintain a full schedule and somehow found time to spend hundreds of hours on this project,” Carney said. “It represents a huge commitment of time and public service. How he divided his time between his family, his practice and the committees is remarkable.”
Boyd’s work involved intense review of model laws, which are designed on a national level by law groups such as the American Bar Association with the intent of showing states an example of how existing laws could be updated to make them fit with current standards of operation.
“Iowa’s current non-profit law is based on a 1960s model,” Boyd said. “There are now more than 23,000 non-profit associations and corporations in the state of Iowa, and today’s non-profits are substantially different from those of the 1950s and 1960s that were the focus of the drafters of the old model. Our committee felt very strongly that the new legislation, which is now called the Revised Iowa Non-Profit Corporation Act, would be very helpful to these non-profits in dealing with day-to-day issues as well as corporate governance issues that come before them.”
The new non-profit statute, he said, addresses important areas that the 1960s model had been silent on, such as the fiduciary duties imposed on directors, and also recognizes that there are more than one type of non-profit business. Some of the updated standards were directly influenced by another act Boyd devoted time to, the Iowa Business Corporation Act, the for-profit statute that was adopted by the Iowa Legislature in 2003.
Boyd’s years of efforts have resulted in having his committees’ ideas adopted into state legislature, and he has also received prestigious recognition. In June, Boyd, along with David Walker, the dean of Drake University’s Law School, were honored with the Iowa State Bar Association’s President’s Award for making the state a better place to live and do businesses. This award was last presented about five years ago, according to Charles Corcoran at the Bar Association, who describes Boyd’s dedication as going “selfless.”
One reason for his depth of commitment, Boyd said, relates to his dad, Willard “Sandy” Boyd II, a former president of the University of Iowa and a long-time professor of law. The elder Boyd helps lead a student-run organization named the Iowa Non-Profit Resource Center, which provides free legal advice to non-profits.
“Our family members are big supporters of non-profit organizations,” Boyd said. “Between my parents, my siblings and myself, we have served on many boards. I believe that nonprofits play a vital role in the Iowa community and that we have to support them in various ways.”