THE CHURCH LAWYERS
Whether you’re in need of a one-time project or ongoing general counsel for your church or ministry, we are prepared to guide you through the legal questions you face.
David Middlebrook is one of the country’s leading practitioners in the area of religious nonprofit organizations. His clients include high-profile charitable and religious organizations, both domestic and international. Mr. Middlebrook has an in-depth knowledge of risk management for charities, religious organizations, private schools, and universities.
Mr. Middlebrook advises his clients on a wide range of legal issues including corporate structure and governance, employment and volunteer practices, intellectual property, and compensation practices. Mr. Middlebrook serves as outside general counsel to a number of nonprofit organizations, while many others use his services as special nonprofit corporate counsel. Mr. Middlebrook also serves his clients in the role of literary and music agent and is a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars on legal subjects affecting religious nonprofit organizations. He is an award-winning author and has published numerous articles on nonprofit topics. Mr. Middlebrook is a founding shareholder of Middlebrook | Group, PLLC.
Assisted a media-based church ministry in responding to an inquiry by Senator Charles Grassley and the Senate Finance Committee into the church’s activities and operations that raised novel and complex issues, including the permissible scope of congressional inquiries, the protections afforded churches and their members by the First Amendment, and the interplay between congressional inquiries and the protections afforded to churches by section 7611 of the Internal Revenue Code, which provides special rules for IRS inquiries and examinations of churches. Managed a team of outside experts to prepare a coordinated response including lobbying counsel, tax counsel, and religious and constitutional scholars.
Successfully resolved a three-year long IRS church tax inquiry and examination of an international church-based ministry on a “no change” basis that preserved the tax-exempt status of the organization and confirmed its status as a church for federal tax purposes.
Counseled churches and religious organizations on the availability and requirements for providing parsonages and housing allowances to church leaders.
J.D., Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, 1989
B.S. (Business Management), cum laude, Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1985
District of Columbia, 1991
U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Tax Court
All Texas State Courts
District of Columbia Court of Appeals
All Colorado State Courts
Nonprofit Law for Religious Organizations: Essential Questions and Answers, providing guidance, direction, and clarification of legal and tax laws affecting churches and other religious organizations (John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2008)
The Guardian System, a comprehensive system for the prevention of child abuse within nonprofit organizations (Strang Communications Company, 2000)
Awarded the Gold Medallion Book Award in recognition of excellence in evangelical Christian literature by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, 2001
Certified in Nonprofit Management by the University of Texas at Austin, 2013
Certified in Risk Management for Religious Nonprofit Organizations by the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England, U.K., 1996
Wendi Hodges practices in a wide variety of areas, but focuses primarily on those of corporate, transactional, and nonprofit law. Wendi works with many organizations across the country and internationally, assisting with the incorporation process in multiple jurisdictions. She regularly assists clients in various commercial real estate matters, such as drafting conveyance deeds, loan documents, and negotiating commercial lease agreements. Wendi also has experience in employment law, drafting employee handbooks, at-will employment, and separation agreements. She has counseled a wide variety of for-profit and nonprofit entities and tax-exempt organizations, including public charities, private schools, churches, and religious organizations.
Wendi initially joined Mr. Middlebrook’s firm as a law clerk in 2005, before becoming an associate of the firm in 2007. She stepped away from the firm in 2012 when she relocated with her family to East Texas where she spent the next several years representing financial institutions, for-profit entities, and entrepreneurs with their business endeavors, while also providing counsel in the fields of oil and gas and individual probate matters. In early 2023 she happily accepted an offer to rejoin Mr. Middlebrook’s team as a Senior Associate Attorney.
Represented domestic and international nonprofit organizations, assisting them with complying with federal, state, and local rules and regulations
Regularly assist new and existing organizations in multiple jurisdictions with corporate matters, including drafting documents such as certificates of formation and articles of incorporation, bylaws, company agreements, corporate resolutions, minutes of board meetings, and a wide variety of corporate policies and operational procedures
Regularly assist clients in commercial real estate matters of various sizes, including drafting and negotiating construction contracts, conveyance deeds, loan documents, and commercial lease agreements, as well as seeking and obtaining exemption from property taxes in numerous counties
Drafted employee handbooks, employment agreements, and separation agreements, as well as represented organizations in state unemployment disputes
Performed a wide range of contract drafting, reviews, and negotiations, and assisted clients with vendor disputes
Regularly counsel members of senior management regarding risk management and best practices
Counseled clients in matters of estate planning, including drafting and implementing wills, trusts, and general and medical powers of attorney
J.D., Texas Wesleyan University, 2007
B.A. magna cum laude (English and History), Stephen F. Austin State University, 2004
U.S. District Court, N.D. Texas
All Texas State Courts
DORCAS “DORI” GRUBAUGH
Dorcas “Dori” Grubaugh has nearly 20 years of experience as an attorney. Mrs. Grubaugh is a compassionate, results-driven, hard worker on behalf of our clients, which are primarily churches and religious nonprofits. She specializes in the areas of nonprofit formation, governance, contracts, and transactional law. Mrs. Grubaugh brought extensive knowledge of probates, wills, and estate planning to the firm as well.
Mrs. Grubaugh works primarily with our clients in their contractual and transactional matters. She prepares formation documents for new nonprofits, manages successfully navigating the months-long IRS tax-exemption process for non-profit clients to be determined as 501(c)(3) charities, and negotiates contracts in each client’s best interest.
Prior to joining Middlebrook Group, PLLC, Mrs. Grubaugh served as an associate attorney at another Texas law firm, where she gained general experience in civil law practice, including corporate law and commercial loan transactions, health law, and real estate law.
Dori is married to a God-honoring husband, and she is a focused mom to her four unique daughters and one rambunctious son. Dori and her family attend Fielder Church in Arlington, Texas.
L.L.M., Estate Planning and Elder Law, Western New England University School of Law, 2013
J.D., Texas Wesleyan University of Law, 2004 (now known as Texas A&M University School of Law)
B.A., History, Texas A&M University, 1994
Memberships & Affiliations
Texas Bar College – 2021 to present
Real Estate, Probate & Trust Law Section of the State Bar of Texas – 2008 to present
Presentations and Distinctions
Speaker on “Data Use Agreements for Research” at the JPS 10th Annual Research Day, in Fort Worth, Texas, June 3, 2016 – sponsored by the Tarrant County Hospital District.
Speaker on “How to Avoid Probate” at the 12th Annual People’s Law School in Fort Worth, Texas, April 2, 2016 – sponsored by the Tarrant County Bar Foundation
Citations Editor for the Texas Wesleyan Law Review (as Dorcas Hawker) – 2003-2004
Niven, John, editor, The Salmon P. Chase Papers, Volume 5, Correspondence, 1865-1873, The Kent State University Press, 1998 – mentioned in acknowledgment (as Dorcas Hawker) for work assisting on the published project
Niven, John, editor, The Salmon P. Chase Papers, Volume 4, Correspondence, April 1863-1864, The Kent State University Press, 1997 – mentioned in acknowledgment (as Dorcas Hawker) for work assisting on the published project
Niven, John, editor, The Salmon P. Chase Papers, Volume 3, Correspondence, 1858-March 1863, The Kent State University Press, 1996 – mentioned in acknowledgment (as Dorcas Hawker) for work assisting on the published project
BRIANNA A. NEVELS
Brianna Nevels is a graduate of Spelman College. Following her time at Spelman, she attended Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, where she received her Juris Doctorate Degree and honed her interest in Intellectual Property law by receiving a certificate in Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship. She is currently an Associate Attorney here at Middlebrook Group and loves advising clients regarding the best ways to protect their Trademarks and other Intellectual Property interest. Brianna is a New Orleans native and has now planted roots in Texas.
Spelman College, B.A., 2017
Loyola University College of Law, J.D., 2020
SENIOR ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY
Ally Haefner is a senior associate attorney at Middlebrook | Group, PLLC. Before joining our firm, Ally’s main practice focused on mergers and acquisitions, including negotiating, drafting, and reviewing transaction contracts. In addition, Ally assisted clients with forming new businesses, advised employment-related matters, and drafted contracts for employment, statements of work, and service agreements. Ally also assisted clients with civil litigation matters, including drafting court pleadings and drafting and responding to discovery.
Before becoming an attorney, Ally worked in student ministries for a church in Arkansas overseeing adult volunteers, coordinating small groups, and planning retreat weekends. With this experience layered under her legal experience, Ally brings a unique understanding to assist our clients’ needs and challenges.
Ally lives with her husband and three daughters in her hometown of Plano, Texas. Outside of work, she loves family time outside, cheering on the Arkansas Razorbacks, and trying out new-to-her local restaurants.
J.D., Regent University School of Law, 2017
B.S. (Dietetics), cum laude, University of Arkansas, 2011
All Texas State Courts
A member of the Middlebrook Group’s pre-litigation and internal governance teams, Nick joined the firm in August of 2022. Prior to his current practice, Nick fought for religious freedom at the First Liberty Institute and externed in Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Nick received his Juris Doctorate with honors from Southern Methodist University and spent a year clerking for a corporate lawyer in Florence, Italy. He also graduated summa cum laude with degrees in Economics and Italian from Wheaton College in Massachusetts, and grew up in rural Maine.
Southern Methodist University (Juris Doctorate), Wheaton College (Bachelor of Arts)
John W. Hodges, Jr., is a Texas native, and a trial lawyer.
After graduation from the University of Texas at San Antonio he began his active duty as U.S. Marine Corps officer. Shortly after a deployment to Iraq, he was selected by the Marine Corps to attend law school at the University of Nebraska. He completed the Litigation Skills Program of Concentrated Study and received his Juris Doctorate in 2011.
After spending more than 10 years as an active duty Marine and Judge Advocate (JAG), he returned home to Texas to represent individuals needing a bold, passionate trial attorney.
CURTIS G. COETZEE
Curtis G. Coetzee is a distinguished associate attorney at Weavil Law PC, serving clients in California with a focus on corporate law. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Curtis moved to the United States at the age of 14, embarking on a journey that shaped his global perspective and commitment to legal excellence.
Curtis graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Economics from Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. He then earned his Juris Doctor from Trinity Law School, where he stood out for his academic excellence. As a testament to his dedication to legal scholarship, Curtis was selected as a student tutor and received multiple Am Jur awards. His keen intellect and hard work propelled him to graduate at the top of his class.
In his practice, Curtis primarily concentrates on corporate, commercial, and business representation. He serves as outside general counsel for a diverse range of closely-held businesses, specializing in the following areas:
Mergers and acquisitions, representing both buyers and sellers
New entity start-up formations and financing
Commercial loan transactions, acting on behalf of both lenders and borrowers
Internal ownership transitions, including crafting operating agreements, shareholder agreements, and buy-sell agreements
Advising on business litigation and disputes matters
Ongoing corporate governance and legal counsel
His in-depth understanding of the legal landscape and meticulous attention to detail make him a sought-after legal advisor for businesses at various stages of growth.
Outside the courtroom and office, Curtis is passionate about golf and nature. He enjoys spending quality time on the golf course and experiencing the beauty of the great outdoors. Committed to social responsibility, he volunteers with nonprofit organizations focused on supporting underprivileged children.
Max Bishop serves as “of counsel” to the firm. Max’s practices in the areas of estate planning, probate, and real estate transactions. He counsels both individuals and entities such as charitable trusts.
Max assists individual clients with charitable giving goals in developing estate plans that meeting their particular eleemosynary objectives, utilizing a variety of planning tools including lifetime gifts (charitable contributions), charitable trusts, private foundations, and other charitable giving arrangements. He reviews current estate plans with an eye to the future, but also with an appreciation of the client’s need to make future changes as client’s circumstances mandate. Max’s approach to estate planning is to ensure that lifetime needs are taken into account in an estate plan as much as are prudent distributions at passing.
If a client’s estate planning needs involve the establishment of a charitable trust, private foundation, or other charitable entity, Max collaborates with other members of the Firm to establish or incorporate the right entity to meet the client’s needs.
M.B.A., Southern Methodist University, 1991
J.D., University of Miami, 1990
B.A. (History and Political Science), Southern Methodist University, 1987
All Texas State Courts
ROBERTO R. MANCHA
Roberto Mancha serves as “of counsel” to the firm. Roberto has in-depth experience in the area of federal and state tax law. He has assisted clients in tax planning and with defending against IRS and state tax audits, including federal employment audits (independent contractor/employee issues and withholding requirements), at both the examination and IRS Appeals stages. Roberto also works closely with client personnel, including upper management, to develop effective internal systems and processes to comply with applicable federal and state tax laws. Roberto has represented both the IRS and private taxpayers in complicated foreign and domestic transactions involving mergers and acquisitions and transfer pricing. He also assists clients with addressing employee plan issues. Prior to entering private practice, Roberto held several positions at the IRS, worked in industry for a Fortune 50 company, and worked for a “Big Four” CPA firm.
L.L.M. (Taxation) Georgetown University, 1986
J.D. South Texas College of Law, 1979
B.B. A. (Accounting), University of Texas at Austin, 1972
AU.S. Tax Court
Texas State Courts
Internal Revenue Service, Estate and Gift Tax Attorney, Houston, Texas
Internal Revenue Service, Corporate Reorganizations Division, IRS National Office,
Internal Revenue Service, Chief Counsel International, IRS National Office,
United States Marine Corps
DAVID W. RALSTON
David Ralston serves as “of counsel” to the firm and is a specialist in the area of ERISA and the laws involving qualified employee benefit plans for all types of business organizations. He has practiced law in this area for twenty-seven years.
David is involved extensively in the implementation of qualified and nonqualified employee benefit plans and deferred compensation arrangements for both the for-profit and nonprofit organizations. He advises clients on the implementation and operation of profit sharing plans, 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, money purchase pension plans, defined benefit pension plans, rabbi trusts, and employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs).
His legal practice provides particular emphasis to employee benefit plans for owners and highly compensated employees of closely-held businesses through the implementation of comparability and age-weighted qualified retirement plans. He advises trustees and advisors concerning fiduciary duties and responsibilities under ERISA and assists plan sponsors with Voluntary Compliance applications to the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Labor.
J.D., Southern Methodist University, 1985 M.A., Business, University of Wisconsin – Madison, 1978
B.B.A., Southern Methodist University, 1976
Memberships & Affiliations
State Bar of Texas
Texas State Bar College
Dallas Bar Association
Employee Benefits Section, Dallas Bar Association
American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA)
ASPPA Benefits Council – Dallas – Fort Worth Member of Board of Directors
Estate Planning Council of North Texas
RORY S. COETZEE
Rory S. Coetzee graduated from Trinity Law School in 2008 and was licensed to practice law in California in December of that same year. While at Trinity Law School, he participated in the school’s Moot Court program, was the recipient of the Dean’s Scholarship, and was awarded the prestigious Amjur Award for academic excellence in the area of Criminal Procedure. He was also elected to serve as a representative on the student body counsel.
A native of South Africa, Rory immigrated to the United States in 1998 and attended Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, Texas where he graduated with Cum Laude honors and received a Bachelors of Science Degree with an emphasis in both Political Science and Paralegal Studies.
Prior to founding R.S.C. Law Group, Rory worked for five years as a senior associate attorney at The Law Firm of J. Hector Moreno, Jr. & Associates, one of the most prestigious and preeminent family law firms in San Jose, California. During Rory’s time at The Law Firm of J. Hector Moreno, Jr. & Associates, he focused his practice on high-conflict family law litigation, which allowed him to become familiar and accustom to dealing with the most complex issues in the family law arena. Prior to that, and while still in law school, Rory spent two years serving as a Judicial Law Clerk for the Honorable Robert Monarch of the Orange County Superior Court. He also held an externship position with the Orange County District Attorney’s office.
While Rory Coetzee’s practice is now focused primarily on family law matters, he has also successfully represented clients in the areas of business litigation, real estate litigation, and personal injury litigation. Mr. Coetzee has represented clients in all manner of legal disputes, and has always dedicated his efforts to ensure that he represents all of his clients with excellence, compassion and knowledge of the law.
Trinity School of Law, Santa Ana, California 2008
Honors: Moot Court Program
Honors: Dean’s Scholarship, 2007
Honors: Amjur Award, Criminal Procedure, 2007
Honors: Elected to serve as a Representative on the Student Body Counsel
Texas Wesleyan University, Fort Worth, Texas B.S.
Honors: cum laude
Major: Political Science
Major: Paralegal Studies
Honors and Awards
Top Contributor Award, Avvo, 2015
Judge Pro Tem Volunteer Appreciation Award, Santa Clara County Family Law Court, 2015
Client’s Choice Award, Avvo, 2014
Professional Associations and Memberships
Monterey County Bar Association, 2014 to Present
Monterey County Bar Association, Family Law Section, 2014 to Present
Santa Clara County Bar Association, 2009 to Present
Santa Clara County Bar Association, Family Law Section, 2009 to Present
American Bar Association, 2009 to Present
American Bar Association, Family Law Section, 2009 to Present
American Bar Association, Young Lawyers Division, 2009 to Present
Past Employment Positions
Honorable Robert Monarch, Orange County Superior Court, Judicial Law Clerk
Orange County’s District Attorney’s Office, Extern
The Law Firm of J. Hector Moreno, Jr. & Associates, Senior Associate
Pro Bono Activities
Santa Clara County Bar Association, Judge Pro Tem, 2015 to Present
SENIOR PARALEGAL TO THE FOUNDER
Brenda Noel is the Senior Paralegal to the Founder at Middlebrook | Group, PLLC where she is responsible for new client onboarding, managing the team of paralegals, and coordinating the commitments and schedule for the Founder. She is a great relationship builder. In the pursuit of excellence, she is focused on efficiency in workflow and helping to create a synergized team that delivers beyond expectation.
Prior to taking on her role at Middlebrook | Group PLLC, Brenda gained experience as a bank manager and officer, mortgage loan broker, and financial planner. However, she considers her time working at the U.S. SBA Office of Disaster Assistance as some of the most meaningful and fulfilling of her career. Over the years, she helped hundreds of individuals, families, and businesses reestablish their lives and livelihood after a natural disaster.
Brenda has also been a part of the leadership team at her church and has served as the Treasurer and Chair of the Finance Committee.
Gabby is one of the paralegals at Middlebrook | Group where she is responsible for supporting our clients, our attorneys, and our overall mission. She is focused on fostering client relations and creating an environment of successful interactions.
Gabby earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas Wesleyan University and her Paralegal Studies credentials from Texas Christian University.
Prior to taking on her role at Middlebrook | Group, Gabby gained experience in her time as a Litigation and Corporate Paralegal, as well as almost a decade spent as a Financial Controller.
Deneen Wade is an Administrative Paralegal at the firm. What is an administrative paralegal? She assists wherever needed to help the firm. Deneen also works with attorneys in the application and maintenance of trademarks. She manages the compensation report process from initial contact to report delivery. She assists clients with filing their annual reports.
Just prior to joining Middlebrook Group, Deneen worked as a legal assistant with the US Small Business Administration assisting with disaster relief. She also has experience in education, insurance, and social services.
Project Management Certificate, Coursera/UC Irvine extension online
Paralegal Certificate, Duquesne University
M.A., University of Central Oklahoma
B.A., Augusta State University
Deneen is married with two sons. She is a member of First Saint John Cathedral in Fort Worth, Texas where Bishop Kenneth B. Spears is the pastor. Deneen is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Stacy is a paralegal at Middlebrook Group, PLLC where she is responsible for managing calendars, legal document filings with the states, and assisting the attorneys with document preparation.
On a mission to always serve and do the will of God, she holds dear the verses in the Bible of John 3:16 and Proverbs 3:5-6. She is a dedicated worker and strives to be an encourager by creating a positive family work environment.
Prior to taking her role at Middlebrook Group, PLLC, Stacy worked for 27 years as a legal assistant at another Texas law firm assisting with nonprofit organizations, commercial real estate, wills, and litigation. Contemporaneously, she worked as an escrow officer for a title company working on commercial real estate transactions.
She is married to a wonderful husband and is an aunt to many nieces and nephews which she adores.
Christina Middlebrook is the Operations Director at Middlebrook | Group, The Church Lawyers, where she is responsible for overall operations, human relations, and the firm’s strategic growth. She is motivated by making good things happen for others outside and inside the firm and works hard to maintain that culture of Christian contribution.
Before taking on her role at The Church Lawyers, Christina led several regional and national education nonprofits, built science-based education programs, and coached high school educators.
Christina was recognized as a Teacher of the Year and Teacher in Space candidate and has served on several nonprofit boards, including Propel Women and the nationally recognized LiiNK Project.
Angellina is the Marketing Assistant at Middlebrook | Group, The Church Lawyers, where she is responsible for all social media pages and client outreach projects. She is currently a college student earning her undergraduate in Film and Television production.
Clarion Communications & Media LLC: President
Communications, Crisis Management, Public Relations, Media Relations
The White House: Presidential Advance Team & White House Press Office – President George H.W. Bush – 1987-1992
Gateway Church: Executive Director-
Media Relations, Communications, Broadcast Ministries
The DeMoss Group Sr. VP – Atlanta based Public Relations Agency –
Clients: Billy Graham Association, Samaritans Purse, Campus Crusade, American Bible Society, Templeton Foundation, Prison Fellowship, Promise Keepers, Bishop T.D. Jakes Ministries
Fellowship Church: Creative Director-
Creative Services, Media Relations, Communications, Broadcast Ministries
TPN Ad Agency: Account Executive- creative promotional / event services
Clients: Pepsi Canada, Frito Lay, Marriott
Atticus has proven himself equal to the task of becoming our newly appointed Firm Mascot. His qualifications include being an excellent greeter and willingness to help visitors explore the office.