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Deborah T. Ashford

Senior Counsel
Washington, D.C.

Deborah T. Ashford

Clients say that Deborah Ashford brings the clear strategic thinking, practical experience, and efficient problem-solving skills that allow them to focus on their nonprofit missions, instead of worrying about unaddressed legal risks.

In the past 35 years, Deborah secured federal tax-exempt status for hundreds of nonprofit organizations, and has represented thousands on specific projects. In her role as general counsel to charitable, professional, and trade organizations, she attends 25 to 30 board of director meetings a year. In that capacity, she has provided legal and practical advice to the board member CEOs of numerous large companies on sensitive legal and organizational issues. With her tax and corporate know-how in the nonprofit arena and her practical experience, Deborah has board members and nonprofit managers seeking her input on all aspects of running a successful organization.

Deborah has represented high-profile international organizations with aspects of doing business in countries around the world. She has also represented the presidents of three countries in establishing U.S. charitable organizations. In 1995, President Clinton appointed Deborah as the U.S. nominee to serve as a judge on the United Nations (UN) Administrative Tribunal. The General Assembly then elected her to the position and re-elected her in 1999 to serve a second term.

Deborah is passionately committed to assuring that small organizations have access to quality pro bono legal services. Annually, she advises numerous pro bono clients on tax and corporate matters.

Prior to law school, Deborah had several U.S. government positions, including in the Office for Civil Rights and the Office of Education (U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare) and served as assistant director of the Women Studies Program at the University of Alabama, on whose faculty she served for two years.


Representative experience

Served as General Counsel to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama Inaugural Committees.

Acted as General Counsel to Direct Selling Association and related foundation and international association for over 20 years.

Restructured and advised Radio Free Europe on move from Munich to Prague.

Education and admissions


  • J.D., Yale Law School, 1981
  • M.A., University of Alabama, 1974
  • B.A., University of Alabama, 1972


  • Director, The Cousteau Society
  • Judge, United Nations Administrative Tribunal (1995-1999)
  • Member, Advisory Council, Equality Now
  • Member, American Health Lawyers Association
  • Member, American Society of Association Executives

Bar admissions and qualifications

  • District of Columbia

Latest thinking and events

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