For information and resources see our COVID-19 Support Page. If your small business or nonprofit needs COVID-19 related legal or capacity building help, contact us.

Legal Clinic FAQs

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

An overview of our nonprofit and microenterprise 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.  You will also receive bi-weekly 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 Program Manager, Sarah Baker, at sarah@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, should I still volunteer at the nonprofit legal clinic?

Yes! We highly encourage volunteers to attend BOTH of our legal clinics. Many of the issues addressed at the nonprofit clinic are similar to those covered at the microenterprise clinic (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 phone consults and will schedule clients  with an attorney.

Prepping for the Clinic

Where are the clinics located?

Both clinics are located in South Seattle:

  • The Nonprofit Legal Clinic is located at our office: 3642 33rd Ave S. STE C4 Seattle, WA 98144.
  • The Microenterprise Legal Clinic is hosted at the 2100 Building; 2100 24th Ave S. Seattle, WA 98144 (a five-minute drive from our office).
  • Both clinics are located close to major bus lines and the Mount Baker Light Rail Station.
  • Both buildings are ADA accessible, do not have steps to enter them and provide restrooms on the ground floor.

Do you offer trainings for first-time volunteers?

We offer a training called Microenterprise 101 for attorneys who want an orientation to our Microenterprise Legal Clinic and an overview of the common legal topics that arise at this clinic. Microenterprise 101 is held once a year in early November.  You do not need to attend the Microenterprise 101 training to volunteer at the clinic. Unfortunately, at this time we do not currently offer any other formal training for first-time volunteers, however, we will pair you with a more seasoned volunteer for your first clinic.

We do our best to prepare you for our clinics by providing a wide variety of resources that can be found in our google drive. We offer CLE trainings throughout the year on a variety of topics relevant to representing our microenterprise and nonprofit clients. Please note that these documents are for internal use only and are not to be shared with clients:

We additionally offer videos (with CLE credit!) which you can watch for free through Vimeo if you have signed up for a minimum of two of our legal clinics. You may also rent the videos for a fee if you would like to access them without volunteering. For more information on videos, please email our Program Manager, Sarah Baker, at sarah@communities-rise.org.

Videos offered: 

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 (the other volunteer attorneys and law student)
  • 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.

What should I bring?

We recommend that attorneys bring a laptop to the clinic in the event that research may be needed.  Wifi will be available. Everything else will be provided for you unless otherwise noted via email.

How is the clinic structured? What can I expect?

For both the nonprofit and microenterprise legal clinics we schedule up to 8 clients (4 per hour) for the evening. Each client is seen for forty-five minutes to an hour by a team of 2 attorneys and 1 law student. 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 during the school 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. The student will then submit the notes to one of our on-site 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.

Microenterprises:

  • 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.

Can I print documents for my client at the clinic?

At the nonprofit clinic, yes. At the microenterprise clinic, no. Please check with an on-site staff person and we will work with you to either print your requested documents or follow up with the client via email to make sure they get the resources they need.

What forms are used during the clinic?

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

  • Consultation Summary Form
    • This is the template used for client notes. Notes may be taken by hand or electronically. 
  • 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 the on-site 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 ok! We 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 will move you to assist another team, or potentially assign another client to you.