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Hat kind of job attracts the former general counsel of a sports management company, who holds master’s degrees in nutrition, biochemistry, and business administration? Why, land use, of course. Or, in the case of James Coffin, land preservation. Coffin is the new general counsel and vice president for land preservation at the privately funded National Park Trust in Washington, D.C. “I have an unusual background,” admits Coffin, 49, of a resume seemingly guided by serendipity as much as anything else. Consider that, prior to joining the preservation group this summer, Coffin was a sports guy: As GC for Negotiations Plus Sports Management in Annapolis he negotiated National Football League and NASCAR contracts. Before that, he practiced with two D.C. firms in their real estate, bankruptcy, and litigation areas. “Based on my broad practice background, I don’t have to learn the legal part of this job,” he says of land preservation, “but I have to learn the business of managing a charitable organization.” Coffin credits his family for influencing his decision to join the nonprofit world. A sister is a Peace Corps alum; his parents were involved in preservation in upstate New York. “I decided I wanted to do more with my life than put names on cars that go around a track,” Coffin says. Instead of cars, he’ll now have a diverse agenda at the trust, whose recent projects ranged from facilitating the purchase of an Alaskan gold mine to the preservation of Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood Kentucky home. Controversies such as increased traffic at the nation’s parks and the pressure to tap energy reserves in some parklands should also keep the new GC busy. “There is a constant assault on our parks,” Coffin says, “and it’s much more intense than people realize.” Closer to D.C., Coffin has begun negotiating the purchase of the Cambridge, Maryland, land on which abolitionist Harriet Tubman’s childhood home once stood. The attorney says he’s impressed by his coworkers’ dedication to public service and invigorated by the preservation process. “At the end of the day,” Coffin says, “you can really feel good about what you’ve done.”

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