Legal advice

Nearly every aspect of setting up and running a voluntary sector organisation includes a legal component in some way. From incorporation and charity law through to employment law, data protection, equalities, tax law and contracting.

In the first instance, you may be able to find some relevant general legal information from our Knowhow Nonprofit site ; many pages also contain signposting to specialist sources of legal information. For more complex matters, specific legal advice and assistance about your situation is often required.

NCVO cannot offer legal advice as we are not lawyers but can suggest the following:

Free legal assistance for small organisations

LawWorks for not–for-profits

LawWorks is a charity that links not-for-profits with pro bono lawyers in various areas of law. They offer:

  • One-off legal assistance: where a small not-for-profit organisation (<£500k income) needs help with a one-off legal issue, LawWorks matches the organisation with a volunteer lawyer from its network of member law firms and in-house legal teams who can advise on that matter.
  • The Honorary Counsel scheme matches not-for-profit organisations with legal volunteers for longer-term pro bono assistance. The ‘Honorary Counsel’ will carry out a health check of the organisation’s main documents and act as a first point of contact for free initial advice when needed. They welcome applications from not-for-profit organisations who would like their own Honorary Counsel.
  • They also produce their Free Talks - short online videos about common legal issues faced by small not-for-profit organisations.

Trust Law Connect

TrustLaw Connect is a pro-bono legal service run by the Reuters Foundation. Applications for legal support are individually assessed, and if the charity meets the programme criteria they are matched with a legal firm.

iProbono

iProbono is a not-for-profit providing voluntary organisations with free comprehensive legal support. Charities are asked to create an online profile containing the basic details of the organisation. Whenever pro bono advice is required, the charity can then post details of the request online. iProbono’s Programmes Team analyses the legal requirements and identifies suitable legal professionals from their network of pro bono lawyers, barristers, students etc.

Advocates for International Development (A4ID)

Advocates for International Development (A4ID) brokers free legal advice for organisations working towards international poverty eradication and sustainable development. To access this pro bono advice, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit their website.

A4ID also provides free online legal tools and e-learning which are likely to benefit any organisation. For example, A4ID’s free online legal health check will help you identify your organisation’s legal needs.  

Voluntary sector specialist law firms

The following are some suggested providers on a fee-paying basis.

Some of the bigger and well known charity law firms include BWB, Russell Cooke, Farrer & Co, Stone King and Hempsons.

Smaller legal advice organisations that specialise in charities and voluntary organisations include Advising Communities and Interface Legal Advisory Service. With lower overheads their fees are often at the lower end or they design fee structures to suit smaller organisations with limited budgets.

Other local or smaller firms can be found from the Law Society’s Find a Solicitor directory that can be filtered by area of law and location.

Many solicitors and law firms also run pro bono programs directly so it may be worth asking firms direct even though demand often exceeds what they can offer.

Online assistance and resources

Get Legal is an online tool which allows you to build and customise legal documents through a responsive question-and-answer process. Each document has been drafted by charity law experts at Bates Wells Braithwaite and is priced at a fraction of the cost of engaging a solicitor.The regularly-updated documents will help your charity stay compliant with the law. From an employment contract, to governance documents, to a staff handbook of policies, there’s a wide range to meet your needs.

Slaughter and May, a law firm, has produced a Legal Toolkit for Charities, which is free to download.  Produced to help charities navigate common legal questions, topics include the new general data protection regulation (‘GDPR’), commercial contracts, employment law, intellectual property and property law.

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