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:
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.
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.
Advocates for International Development (A4ID)
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
If you still need specific advice, it’s best to contact a specialist lawyer. Some of the bigger and well known charity law firms include BWB, Russell Cooke, Farrer & Co, Stone King or Hempsons. 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.
As a cheaper alternative to engaging full legal services, BWB have developed www.getlegal.org.uk offering a range of essential legal documents, available to download and customise for your organisation through a guided, step-by-step process.
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.
We also have a Quick Guide to Seeking Legal Support that is free for members and around £6 for non-members.