Real Estate Attorney Volunteers Transactional Skills For Nonprofits

Ian O’Banion

Through the Justice & Diversity Center’s (JDC) Community Organization Representation Project (CORP), real estate attorney Ian O’Banion has counseled four nonprofit organizations on lease compliance and renewal, rent increases, and subleasing space to other nonprofits. The nonprofits all serve low-income communities—veterans, at-risk youth and people in reentry from prison—and O’Banion’s help allows them to use their limited resources for direct services. O’Banion also engages other transactional attorneys at his firm, Nixon Peabody, in pro bono service. For this, JDC commends him as its Volunteer of the Month.

The nonprofits that O’Banion assisted all faced the same challenge: finding and keeping an affordable workspace. “There is great demand for office space in San Francisco and the Bay Area,” he explains. With commercial rents rising steeply, “many [nonprofits] have to either move further away from the urban centers to find affordable rent, or negotiate with their landlords to try and make something work in their current spaces.”

O’Banion finds it rewarding to help nonprofits so they can continue their great work. At the same time, volunteering expands his skill set and helps him grow as a transactional attorney. O’Banion appreciates that JDC has pro bono opportunities on interesting real estate and corporate matters for worthy clients (through CORP).

O’Banion is also grateful for his firm’s support of pro bono. Paul Schrier, a real estate partner at Nixon Peabody, has mentored O’Banion’s work for nonprofits. The firm also allows him to be its liaison for CORP so his colleagues learn about transactional volunteer opportunities.

O’Banion grew up in Oregon.He was a licensed architect in San Francisco before land use issues got him interested in the law. He appreciates the city’s diversity, great food, and interesting mix of contemporary and historic architecture. He spends as much time as he can with his wife and two-year-old daughter. He also draws and paints, and enjoys that his daughter can now “collaborate” with him.

If you’d like to engage your firm or in-house department in transactional pro bono work, please contact CORP Supervising Attorney Gloria Chun at