Mary Dowling, Esq.

Managing Attorney

Mary's Bio

Ms. Dowling is the founder and Managing Attorney of Tovella Dowling, PC. She brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the tax-exempt organization and social sectors, regularly counseling public charities, private foundations, foreign charitable affiliates, social welfare organizations, business leagues, social clubs, and religious and faith-based organizations on a broad range of nonprofit tax and corporate governance issues. Ms. Dowling instills creativity, passion, and collaboration in her everyday practice and thrives on being an integral part of her client’s growth.

Although Ms. Dowling’s clients span many industry sectors, she has significant experience representing many journalism-based organizations and local newsrooms, scientific and research-based organizations, especially those operating in the AI and EA space, colleges, universities, and other higher education institutions, youth sports organizations, and religious organizations including churches, ministries, and spiritual organizations.

Ms. Dowling regularly advises in the capacity of outside general counsel to her clients on issues relating to corporate governance, strategic tax planning and compliance, contract drafting and negotiation, fundraising laws and regulations, labor and employment matters, corporate changes and restructures, and intellectual property matters. She has represented numerous organizations before the Internal Revenue Service, various state taxing agencies, and state attorney generals navigating complex legal and tax matters including excess benefit transactions, executive compensation, excess lobbying activities and political campaign intervention, unrelated business income, requesting determination letters for recognition of exempt status and reinstatement and abatement of assessments following auto-revocation of tax-exempt status.

In addition to her representation of tax-exempt organizations, Ms. Dowling represents social enterprises, professional and commercial fundraisers, and other social entrepreneurs in a variety of business pursuits and transactions, including business formation, contracts, mergers and acquisitions, dissolutions, joint ventures, corporate compliance, and intellectual property matters.

From a litigation standpoint, Ms. Dowling has represented organizations, board members, and donors, in various actions including labor and employment claims, governance and board disputes, enforcement of membership derivative rights, wrongful removal and termination actions, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and misappropriation of charitable assets.

When not practicing law, Ms. Dowling enjoys mentoring local law students that are interested in pursuing careers in public interest and transactional law and spending time with her husband and their two daughters.

Bar Admissions

  • California
  • Arizona
  • Colorado

Recognition and Awards

  • American Bar Association 2021 Outstanding Nonprofit Lawyer Award

Affiliations, Memberships and Community Involvements

  • Adjunct Professor at University of San Diego
    • LEAD 509 Nonprofit Law
  • Adjunct Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law
    • Supervising Attorney of Business and Nonprofit Pro Bono Law Clinic
    • Professional Responsibility
  • The Nonprofit Institute – Certificate Program Certificate Educator
  • Arizona Nonprofit Alliance – Business on Board Certificate Educator
  • City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture Panel Member (2019)
  • American Bar Association Nonprofit Organizations Committee
  • San Diego Bar Association

Purpose Drivers

As a driven and career-focused individual, who also believes in the importance of family first, I was frustrated with the imperfect solutions for women who have a dueling passion for both family and profession and refused to accept that one had to take a backseat to the other. I am fueled by normalizing childcare in the workplace to eliminate parental guilt and pressures associated with navigating a work-life balance – both important aspects of achieving holistic self-fulfillment. This drive fueled the firm's dedication to normalizing childcare in the workplace to eliminate parental guilt and pressures associated with navigating a work-life balance – both important aspects of achieving holistic self-fulfillment. Doing its part, Tovella Dowling maintains for its employees a fully subsidized onsite childcare facility in its downtown San Diego office, lending support and fostering a “village” for those employees navigating the rewarding, but challenging feat faced by the everyday working parent. Leading by example, it is the firm’s hope that this innovative model for law firms will one day be the norm, rather than the rarity.