What do I do if I need legal assistance?
If you think you meet our criteria to become a client, the first step is to visit our Request Legal Assistance page. If your organization meets the initial requirements, we then set up a screening meeting with preferably two board members of your organization and one of our attorneys. At the meeting, one of our attorneys will determine whether your organization is eligible for our services, and will identify any legal needs.
What are the criteria for becoming a client of Pro Bono Partnership?
To be eligible for services, an organization must be:
- A nonprofit organization, or one seeking 501(c)(3) status, serving the disadvantaged or enhancing the quality of life through important social, civic, arts, educational, or environmental programs or services
- Unable to pay for legal services without significant impacting resources for programs
- Located in New York (excluding New York City), New Jersey, Connecticut, and other areas on a case-by-case basis
- Please note that the Partnership does not assist individuals or for-profit organizations.
Do you offer assistance to organizations applying for 501(c)(3) status?
Yes, Pro Bono Partnership can assist new groups with incorporation and obtaining tax-exempt status. Pro Bono Partnership does charge a fee for this service – $500. The organization should also be prepared to pay filing fees at the state and federal level. Please visit our Request Legal Assistance page if you would like assistance with formation.
What happens after my screening meeting?
Once you are accepted as a client and your legal matter(s) have been identified in your screening meeting, the following steps will be taken:
- Your requested legal matter(s) will be written up as Volunteer Opportunities for attorneys, which are sent to volunteers monthly by email and listed on our website.
- You will be asked to sign and return an Engagement Letter for your upcoming legal matter(s).
- You will be notified via phone or email when an attorney volunteers to assist with your legal matter(s).
- We will then contact you to set up your initial meeting with the volunteer attorney and a Pro Bono Partnership attorney concerning the matter.
- While we have an excellent success rate at finding volunteers, there is no guarantee that we will be able to find a volunteer to assist with your legal matter(s).
What are Engagement Letters?
The Engagement Letter describes the matter(s) for which your organization has requested legal assistance, the scope of Pro Bono Partnership’s assistance, and the client’s responsibilities to the attorney. This agreement will be sent to you, and requires a signature of at least two board members, or a board member and the Executive Director.
Please make sure you read the document carefully, sign and return promptly. We cannot schedule your initial meeting with your volunteer attorney until we have received the letter.
The attorney assisting with your matter might require you to sign an additional agreement.
How long does the process take?
That depends. If you provide us with a detailed and complete request for legal assistance, a date for your screening meeting can usually be scheduled within seven days. Depending on how flexible you can be with the date and time, your screening meeting can usually take place within two weeks of scheduling. Following the screening meeting, and if you are accepted as a client, we will add your legal needs to our list of available opportunities. We send out our Volunteer Opportunities to attorneys twice each month. While most of our matters are matched shortly after the Volunteer Opportunities are sent out, some are more difficult to place. If your matter is matched with a volunteer attorney, the attorney will need to get approval from his/her company before scheduling a meeting with you. The attorney then notifies us and we work to find a date and time that suits everyone’s schedule. Please realize that the speed of your matter being matched with an attorney also depends on your organization’s ability to respond to emails, phone calls, and paperwork in a timely manner, and your flexibility in scheduling a meeting.
If your matter is urgent, please contact us, and we will do all we can to expedite the process.
What are my obligations as a client of Pro Bono Partnership?
Our main request is that you are considerate of the attorney’s time. These attorneys graciously volunteer their time and efforts to assist nonprofits with their legal needs. They bill their time to paying clients at rates of at least several hundred dollars per hour.
How much will it cost?
The legal services provided by Pro Bono Partnership and the volunteer attorneys are free of charge, with the exception of the $500 fee charged when assisting with incorporation and tax exemption. Note that you may have to pay fees to third parties depending on your matter. For example, to file for a trademark you must pay a filing fee to the US Patent and Trademark Office.
How involved is Pro Bono Partnership with a matter?
Our primary purpose is to link nonprofits in need to volunteer attorneys. The initial meeting usually includes the client, the volunteer attorney, and an attorney from Pro Bono Partnership. This meeting serves to introduce everyone and create an understanding of the scope of the matter. After this meeting, it is the responsibility of the attorney and the client to communicate directly with one another. Please keep us updated on the progress of the matter and inform us when the matter is complete.