Finding a Lawyer
Finding a pro-bono lawyer is not too difficult. It is often best to begin by asking for such assistance in your networks: church, temple, schools, neighborhood, etc. If you have no luck in an informal search then call a law firm or two. Most firms encourage or require pro-bono work, as do many law schools and the local Bar Association chapter. Make sure the attorney has experience with nonprofits. Even though you may not be paying for the lawyer's time, the organization will have to pay for any fees associated with activities the lawyer assists with, such as registrations.
Finding a Pro-Bono Lawyer
- Sandy Gordon, Trimethylaminuria Support Group, Inc.
"I'd like to share this story because we were truly blessed to find our attorney. Of course, New York City is an activist's town so it was relatively easy. I first tried calling the NY Bar Association regarding a referral to a pro-bono or reduced cost attorney, but I was told that they didn't provide such a service directly. The procedure was: the Bar Association would provide three referrals at a time, and then I'd have to make contact with each and, at the first meeting, ask him/her directly for pro-bono assistance. After the first two phone inquiries to set up an appointment, I quickly realized that system would not work because I couldn't even get a free consultation with any of them.
I then decided to go to the Public Library for a directory of some kind and while there, I asked the librarian in the law department for some guidance. She was a wealth of information. She told me exactly which organizations provided free assistance of every kind in NYC to nonprofits. After that, everything came together.
The first organization that I called, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (www.NYLPI.org) indicated that they had never helped a rare-disorder/medical-related interest before but they were willing to try. They asked me to send them a letter outlining our hopes and dreams and I did just that. Within a short period, they called back to say that they were referring us to a law firm that wanted to help us, pro-bono. I was cautiously optimistic and headed off to the appointment. I was truly amazed when I arrived at their offices and realized that I was at one of the most prestigious law firms in the country.
The attorney treated us like paying clients and listened intently to our story and goals. Within a week, we were called back in and formally assigned to one of their young stars, who has since proven to be more than we ever hoped for and a great advocate. Because every other aspect of our group's journey had been so difficult, I thought that I would have to ask her to help, one step at a time, and advise regarding each phase of required paperwork. However, she automatically did everything for our organizationâfrom registering our name to applying for our Determination Letter. We had the best and she reduced our burden substantially."