Name of Non-Profit Agency:
Pro Bono Partnership, Inc.*
Director, Hartford Program (for all of CT except Fairfield County)
Why is this assistance important to these clients?
A nonprofit organization, like any other corporation, regularly needs business legal advice to understand the complex web of overlapping state and federal regulations by which it is governed. Ongoing access to legal advice is necessary to ensure that a nonprofit 1) operates within the law; and 2) makes effective business decisions in support of its programs and clients.
Unfortunately, most nonprofits lack the funds to hire lawyers without using resources needed to deliver community services. Even in those cases where lawyers serve on nonprofits’ boards, those attorneys generally do not have the legal expertise to address the full spectrum of corporate legal needs a nonprofit organization may face. The Pro Bono Partnership addresses this issue by recruiting business and transactional attorneys who represent a broad range of business legal expertise to provide pro bono legal assistance.
Who are the clients?
The Pro Bono Partnership provides business and transactional legal services to nonprofit organizations serving the disadvantaged and enhancing the quality of life in Connecticut, New Jersey and the lower New York Hudson Valley. We also assist arts and civic organizations and environmental and conservation groups. Our clients are all 501(c)(3) public charities or organizations seeking to become 501(c)(3) public charities. We do not represent individuals.
What legal problem do these clients face?
Nonprofits’ need for legal advice begins with the process of filing for incorporation and obtaining tax exemption, continues through the establishment of governance and management policies, and persists because of subsequent business needs which give rise to questions related, for example, to compliance and filings; contracts; real estate, employment and privacy issues; environmental issues; fundraising regulations; intellectual property issues; lobbying; and mergers and other formal collaborations.
What legal strategies do the pro bono lawyers use to assist the clients?
Business and transactional attorneys volunteering through the Pro Bono Partnership use the same skills and strategies they employ on a daily basis on behalf of their corporations or law firms.
If the pro bono attorney will be appearing for the client, in what court or other forum will that appearance be?
The Partnership does not undertake litigation. A volunteer would not ordinarily represent a client in court or other similar forum.
What are the outcome goals of this assistance?
The goal is to help nonprofits comply with applicable law and best practices, without diverting resources the nonprofits need to feed the hungry, house the homeless, promote the arts, protect the environment and provide essential programs to children, the elderly, immigrants, the disabled and the unemployed.
What time commitment is required to do this pro bono work?
Most matters volunteers undertake through the Partnership are discrete and easily manageable, but time needed for any individual matters may take anywhere from an hour or two to dozens of hours, depending on the nature of the matter. In the course of working on a matter, if a volunteer finds that s/he 1) needs additional assistance or 2) can no longer continue on a matter, Pro Bono Partnership staff attorneys will be happy to recruit additional attorneys to assist or take back a matter and re-assign it. Available matters are posted on our website at www.probonopartnership.org and distributed regularly by email to our volunteers, who may request matters that are of interest to them.
Where is the pro bono work done? (For example, at a legal aid office or at the pro bono attorney's office.)
Although there may be an initial in-person meeting with a client in some cases, most initial meetings and subsequent communication with the clients take place by telephone or email. A volunteer can work from his/her office or home.
Give a short (1-paragraph) case example:
In the past 18-months, a community development organization requested assistance with wage issues applicable to partnering with another nonprofit; with the review of a contract for use of the organization’s space for events, and a contract between the organization and artists regarding use of studio space. The organization also requested counsel regarding best practices for staff or volunteers who are providing services to children, e.g., concerning background checks, supervision, etc; counsel regarding job training programs and implications for unemployment claims; and assistance with issues relative to an upcoming government audit. Each of these requests was handled as a separate matter and placed with a range of different volunteers who expressed interest.
If no How are those without full admission supervised to ensure avoidance of issues regarding unlicensed practice?:
A Pro Bono Partnership staff attorney admitted in Connecticut is assigned as co-counsel on each Connecticut matter. In addition to other legal expertise, our staff attorneys are experienced in the law of tax exempt nonprofit organizations.
If it is important that a pro bono lawyer already has particular legal background or training, please describe.
Matters are usually placed with attorneys who have the particular legal expertise our clients need. However, there are a number of matters that are fairly basic in nature or suitable to a generalist, and our staff attorneys are always available to providing back-up and support as needed.
What training is provided to pro bono lawyers doing this work?
Ordinarily no training is required, but the Partnership does offer CLE workshops from time to time.
Who provides the training?
Partnership staff attorneys and/or experts from law firms required for the purpose.
Where is the training held? How long does the training last?
Locations vary. Workshops are usually a half-day in length and voluntary.
Who are the adverse parties (if any) for this type of work (for example, landlords, spouses, banks, government entities)?
In many cases, there is no adverse party – for example if the project relates to drafting policies or corporate governance documents. In other cases, an adverse party could be a landlord, an employee, or the other party to a contract.
At what time of day is the pro bono work done (example evening clinic)?:
The pro bono work is done when the volunteer has time available.
Does this pro bono work require full admission to practice in Connecticut?
No, although it is helpful.
This organization is a member of the Connecticut Pro Bono Network.