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Pro Bono and More: On-line Legal Resources for Nonprofits

April 2003

Rule 6.1 of the American Bar Association's "Model Rules of Professional Conduct" addresses pro bono services and states in part:

"A lawyer should aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono publico legal services per year. In fulfilling this responsibility, the lawyer should provide a substantial majority of the 50 hours of legal services without fee or expectation of fee to (1) persons of limited means or (2) charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters which are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means."

The term pro bono is derived from the Latin phrase pro bono publico, meaning "for the public good." Lawyers have a long-standing tradition of supporting the public good, donating their time and expertise to low-income individuals and nonprofit organizations. The Internet serves as an excellent medium for nonprofits to seek out this type of assistance, connecting with free or low-cost legal information and services.

Laws governing nonprofits differ from state to state. Therefore many of the on-line resources available are state specific and far too numerous to list in this article. Some good places to check on-line for local nonprofit legal resources and information are:

  • Web sites of large law firms that deal in nonprofit law
  • State nonprofit associations
  • State and local bar associations
As for national resources, some helpful sites include:

  • Alliance for Justice, Nonprofit Advocacy Project
    Understanding lobbying regulations can be critical for many tax-exempt organizations. The Nonprofit Advocacy Project strives to assist politically active nonprofits in understanding the laws that govern them. This site features information on workshops, updates on advocacy issues, and a toll-free help line.

  • FirstGov
    When looking for legal answers, why not go straight to the source? FirstGov is the U.S. government's official Web site. Its section for nonprofits includes useful information on laws and regulations.

  • The Free Management Library
    A collaboration between the Management Assistance Program and Authenticity Consulting, LLC, the Free Management Library contains a great deal of useful information, including a section of Nonprofit-Specific Legal Information.

  • Nonprofit Law
    Presented by Pfau Englund Nonprofit Law, P.C., this site provides free legal information aimed at nonprofits. Features include information on starting a nonprofit, IRS forms, and tips for nonprofit CEOs.

If it's legal information you're looking for, there's a good chance that you can find what you need on the Internet. If you need legal advice, however, it's always best to consult directly with a qualified attorney.

Patrick Ferraro
© 2003, Philanthropic Research, Inc.

Patrick Ferraro is the Editor of the GuideStar Newsletter.