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Legal Clinic Volunteer FAQs

Have questions about volunteering at our clinics? Check out the answers below for many frequently asked questions!

An overview of our nonprofit and small business clinics and instructions on volunteer applications can be found on the Clinic page.

Application and Eligibility

I’ve filled out the Volunteer Enrollment Form, now what?

Filling out the Volunteer Enrollment Form adds you to our volunteer roster and registers you for our malpractice insurance. If you give us permission, you will also receive monthly emails with a list of our current volunteer opportunities, including our upcoming clinics, direct representation matters, CLE’s, and more! Keep an eye out for this email to get specifics on upcoming opportunities and how to sign up. If you don’t want to wait for our volunteer opportunity emails or aren’t receiving these emails, please contact our Volunteer Engagement Manager at probono@communities-rise.org.

I am not licensed to practice in the State of Washington. Can I still volunteer?

Yes! Please let us know when you sign up for a clinic and we will pair you with a Washington State licensed attorney. 

I don’t have any experience in nonprofit law, can I still volunteer to serve nonprofit clients?

Yes! We highly encourage volunteers to serve both client types (small business clients and nonprofit clients) at our legal clinics. Many of the issues nonprofit clients bring to the clinics are similar to those discussed with small business clients (e.g. contracts, employment, IP, etc.). We will always try to pair you with a more experienced attorney if you do not have experience within a specific area. 

I’m not available to attend the legal clinics but would still like to work with clients on a short-term basis. Are there options for me?

Yes! We often have clients who are not able to attend our legal clinics for a variety of reasons. In these cases, if deemed appropriate, we offer 45-60 minute limited engagement phone consults and will schedule clients with an attorney.

Prepping for the Clinic

Where are the clinics located?

All legal clinics are hosted virtually Zoom video call. Legal clinics are held approximately the third Wednesday of every month, excluding a few exceptions. Clinics are held from 4:45pm-7:15 pm PT.

We do not host legal clinics in the months of December and July.

Do you offer trainings for first-time volunteers?

Unfortunately, at this time we do not currently offer any formal training for first-time volunteers. However, we will pair you with a more seasoned volunteer for your first clinic. We are also happy to set up a time to meet with you one-on-one to discuss clinic details and what to expect. Just reach out to Amira, our Volunteer Engagement Manager, at amira@communities-rise.org to set up an appointment!

We do offer a number of free online videos on a variety of topics through our Vimeo account, as well as CLE accredited pay-per-view videos that can be purchased individually. For individuals that sign up for 3 of our legal clinics, you are given free access to 1 of our CLE accredited videos of your choice. To see what videos we have available for free and for purchase, check out our Training Videos page.

We also do our best to prepare you for our clinics by providing a wide variety of resources that can be found in our google drive. Please note that these documents are for internal use only and are not to be shared with clients:

Do I receive information about my client(s) beforehand?

Yes! You will receive an email the week prior to the clinic with the following information: 

  • Members of your team (this could include another volunteer attorney providing counsel and/or a Law Student Volunteer in the role of note-taker)
  • Client information (legal inquiries, as well as some basic information about their organization or business)
  • Any additional client documents that may be needed for your consultation (contracts, bylaws, etc.)
  • Note: While we do our best to obtain information about your clients before each clinic, we are not always able to get paperwork back in a timely fashion. In the event that your client has not returned their documentation to us, we will give you as much information as possible to prepare you for your meeting. Feel free to reach out should you have any questions!

How is the clinic structured? What can I expect?

At the Legal Clinics, we can schedule up to 20 clients (10 per hour) for the evening, depending on volunteer availability. Each client is seen for 45 minutes- 1 hour by a team of 1-2 attorneys providing counsel and 1 law student present as note-taker. Dependent on volunteer availability, team sizes may vary. To the best of our ability, attorneys are paired with clients based on their area of practice and the legal needs of the client.

The law students who volunteer at the clinics are from Seattle University and the University of Washington. They volunteer at the Communities Rise legal clinics throughout the year to give them experience in the field, with their main responsibility being note taking. At the end of the session, we ask volunteer attorneys to review the student’s notes for accuracy and completeness. An attorney who provided legal counsel during the session must e-sign the notes. The student will then submit the notes to one of our staff who will then email the notes to the client along with any follow-ups.

In the event that you do not have a law student paired with you during the clinic, you will need to decide before meeting with your client which attorney will be taking notes.

Policies and Procedures

What types of legal issues are typically covered at a clinic?

Our legal clinics are for clients with business-transactional legal questions. This includes but is not limited to:

Nonprofits:

  • Incorporation and application for tax exemption status under IRS Code sec. 501(c)(3).
  • Nonprofit Governance – Advising on good governance, drafting and revising bylaws; creating articles of incorporation; creating conflict of interest, whistleblower, and other corporate policies; and advising on good corporate governance.
  • Maintenance and Compliance – Advising on maintaining a Washington nonprofit under Washington State law and 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status under IRS Code sec. 501(c)(3), including unrelated business income and compliance with lobbying restrictions.
  • Taxes – Advising on federal, state, and local taxes.
  • Contracts – Drafting and advising on business contracts.
  • Employment – Preparing, reviewing and revising personnel policies, employment contracts, and confidentiality agreements.
  • Real Estate – Advising and reviewing real property leases and purchase and sale agreements.
  • Intellectual Property – Advising on intellectual property issues, including registration of  trademarks, copyright protection, license agreements, or website-related agreements. Note that we do not provide legal assistance on patent matters, except providing general information on patents
  • Risk and Liability Assessment – Advising on risk and liability assessment including drafting of waiver and release forms, and advice on insurance coverage.
  • Federal Tax-Exempt Status – Advising on obtaining of 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.

Small Businesses:

  • Business Entity Formation – Advising on choice of entity (LLC/PLLC, Sole Proprietor, Partnership, C-Corporation, Social Purpose Corporation) and creation of corporate entity.
  • Drafting Agreements –  Advising on and drafting of Shareholder Agreements, Operating Agreements.
  • Advice on Corporate Governance
  • Maintenance and Compliance with State and Federal Law
  • Taxes – Advising on federal, state, and local taxes.
  • Contracts – Drafting and advising on business contracts.
  • Employment – Preparing, reviewing and revising personnel policies, independent contractor agreements, vendor agreements, employment contracts, and confidentiality agreements.
  • Real Estate – Drafting or reviewing property leases and purchase and sale agreements.
  • Intellectual Property – Advising on intellectual property issues, including Assisting with registration of trademarks, and advising on copyright protection, license agreements, or website-related agreements. Note that we do not provide legal assistance on patent matters.
  • Risk and Liability Assessment – Advising on risk and liability assessment including drafting of waiver and release forms, and advice on insurance coverage.

What legal issues are NOT covered at a clinic?

We do not cover the following:

  • Litigation Matters – Communities Rise does not provide assistance on litigation matters.
  • Individual Claims against Nonprofits – Communities Rise does not provide assistance to individuals with their pursuit of claims against nonprofit and community organizations.
  • Legal Matters for Individuals – Communities Rise does not provide assistance to individuals in their personal legal matters in areas such as family law, immigration, foreclosure, bankruptcy, etc.
  • Legal Advice Over the Phone – Communities Rise does not provide legal advice over the phone. We are not a “hotline” service. We only provide legal assistance upon receiving a written application. However, we are available to answer questions about the application process over the phone or by email. Exceptions may be made for phone consultations on a case-by-case basis.

Do you offer malpractice insurance?

Yes! By filling out our Volunteer Enrollment Form, you are automatically registered for our malpractice insurance.

What forms are used during the clinic?

We provide hard copies of the following forms at the legal clinic:

  • Consultation Summary Form
    • A template used for client notes. We will email a blank copy of the template out to your team prior to the clinic.
  • Limited Engagement Form
    • We ask that you go over this form with your clients before you begin consulting with them so they understand that the clinic is a limited engagement. The signed copy of this form will be given to an on-site staff person at the end of the session. 

What if a client wants continued services after they have attended a clinic?

Please check in with a Communities Rise staff-person to discuss details. We offer a variety of legal and capacity-building services outside of our clinics and can make referrals to outside resources if needed.  If you would like to continue volunteering for a particular client, please let us know so we can provide more information to arrange that.  You are not required to continue volunteering for any particular client.

What if I can’t answer a client’s question(s)?

That’s okay! We aim to put attorneys into teams of two so that you can work together to assist your clients as best as possible. Sometimes there will be situations where you don’t have an answer and that is totally fine. We (and the clients) don’t expect you to know everything – just do your best and follow up with an on-site staff person after the consultation is over and we can work with the client to provide them resources to the best of our ability!

What if my client does not show up?

While we always send confirmation emails to clients before each clinic, there can be situations where there is a no-call-no-show or last-minute cancellations. Should this happen we may ask if you want to be moved to another team that only has one attorney or you may be able to log off the Zoom call early.

Volunteer Attorney Clinic Policies

Communities Rise is extremely proud of, and grateful for, the high level of professionalism and competent work done by our volunteer attorneys in service to the community! The following policies help us to ensure that our legal services are delivered in a professional, competent and effective manner. 

  • Late Arrival / No-Call-No-Show
    •  If a Volunteer Attorney is late for 2 clinics or is a no-call-no-show, we reserve the right to discontinue scheduling them in the future.
  • Returning Consultation Summary Notes/Signing Off
    • A key part of the clinic experience is for the client to have a written summary of the consultation to refer to after the clinic.  We ask that attorneys email their client consultation summary forms no later than 1 week after their legal clinic appointment.
    • Attorneys must sign off on all consultation summary form notes that are taken by a volunteer law student. Failure to do so may be considered an ethics violation in accordance with RPC 5.3.
  • Competence
    • Under WA Rules of Professional Responsibility 1.1 Competence
      • “A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.”
    • This RPC applies to limited engagement clinic appointments.  We expect our volunteer attorneys to have the competence, as defined under RPC 1.1 to provide accurate legal information to our clients.