Coronavirus: Advice for your organisation 


Volunteering and coronavirus: How you can help

Legal advice

Nearly every aspect of setting up and running a voluntary sector organisation includes a legal component in some way. From setting up and choosing your legal form through to other aspects of charity law, 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 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.

Pro-bono or low-cost legal advice

NCVO cannot offer legal advice as we are not lawyers. Where you can access pro-bono or low-cost legal advice, will depend on whether you are setting up a new organisation or whether you are an existing organisation.

If you are setting up an organisation

If you are looking to set up an organisation and want legal advice, we suggest the following:

  • Bates Wells’ Get Legal have a useful decision-making tool to help you get started on finding the best form to suit vision and mission. The tool provides an indicator of an appropriate legal form and a few key aspects to help you make your decision
  • On NCVO Knowhow we have an introduction to different legal forms
  • Small Charities Coalition have a simple guide to help you through the logistics of setting up a new charity
  • Interface Legal Advisory service can offer legal advice on setting up charities, community interest companies and other voluntary structures. Advice is offered at a reasonable cost, suitable for those with a limited budget.

If you are an existing organisation


LawWorks is a charity that links existing voluntary organisations with pro-bono lawyers in various areas of law. You should check that your organisation is eligible for their support first. They offer:

  • One-off legal assistance: where a voluntary organisation (usually with an annual income of <£500k) 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 service matches voluntary 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 voluntary organisations who would like their own Honorary Counsel.
  • They also produce their free talks - short online videos about common legal issues faced by voluntary organisations.


TrustLaw is a pro-bono legal service run by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. To access their legal support, your organisation needs to meet their eligibility criteria and join their network. If your organisation meets the programme criteria they are matched with a legal firm. TrustLaw also has a useful guide to help social ventures know which legal structure they should choose.


iProbono provides voluntary organisations with free comprehensive legal support. To access their legal support, your organisation needs to meet their eligibility criteria and create an online profile. 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.

Fee-paying legal advice

It is not always possible to secure pro-bono advice. This is especially true when it comes to technical legal matters and professional advice. Securing the right legal support is often worth the financial investment as it can offer personal assurance and protect your organisation.

The following are some suggested specialist voluntary sector providers that offer a legal advice on a fee-paying basis. Some of the bigger and well known charity law firms include Bates Wells, Russell Cooke, Farrer & Co, Stone King and Hempsons.

For smaller organisations with limited budgets, Interface Legal Advisory Service 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 directly 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 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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