Sustaining a Culture of Creativity

In virtually every nation around the globe, art and creativity serve as cornerstones of culture, allowing individuals from different walks of life to share and convey thoughts, feelings and ideas common to the human experience in ways that transcend the barriers of language and geography. Access and exposure to the arts enriches and empowers individuals to engage their creative faculties, and contributes to the diverse and vibrant fabric of social discourse and expression. Philadelphia in particular is a hub of artistic and creative talent, boasting arts institutions like The Barnes and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a rich musical and theater history, as well as countless murals and other works of public art. Yet many who choose to pursue a career in the arts often struggle financially due to a widespread lack of funding or support for their chosen profession, and are left without access to much-needed services. For individual artists, arts & culture nonprofits and creative small businesses, legal protection and support need not be cost prohibitive or difficult to obtain.
With an expansive network of experienced attorneys trained in a wide variety of legal practice areas, PVLA is able to match individuals, organizations and collectives in the arts and cultural community with skilled professional volunteers to tackle virtually any arts-related legal issue. Join the countless Philadelphia creative sector clients who have obtained pro bono legal support through Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.
To submit an online application, please follow the appropriate link below.  For more details on services available, please review the information contained on the page below, or contact one of our Legal Services Coordinator staff members today.

Pro Bono Services

Legal Line – A Legal Line is a one-time-only telephone consultation between an artist or an arts & cultural organization representative and an attorney to discuss an arts-related legal matter. In a Legal Line consultation, the attorney will provide legal counsel and advice to the client, but is not obligated to take any additional action on behalf of the client. Legal Lines are available to artists and arts organizations and typically takes between 30 to 60 minutes. If a client still has unresolved legal issues following the completion of their Legal Line consultation, the client may contact PVLA to set up subsequent services.

ArtFax – Like a Legal Line consultation, an ArtFax is a one-time-only telephone or in-person consultation between an artist or arts & cultural organization representative and an attorney to review a one- to three-page legal document, such as a draft agreement, waiver or privacy policy. The attorney will provide legal counsel and advice to the client regarding the content of the document in question, such as suggesting additional or modified language or provisions. Any substantial redrafting of a legal document requested by the client would fall outside the scope of an ArtFax consultation. Any client in need of such services following conclusion of their ArtFax consultation should contact PVLA to request additional pro bono services.

Full Service Representation – For matters that cannot be resolved via consultation PVLA offers clients the opportunity to obtain referral to an attorney for Full Service Representation. In a Full Service case, the client is taken on as a pro bono client by a PVLA attorney for a limited scope of work established by PVLA through in-person meetings and discussions with the client. This attorney-client relationship is subject to all ethical and other requirements normally adhering to a paid attorney-client relationship. Examples of Full Service matters include negotiation, document drafting and filing, intellectual property registration, representation in court and litigation.

Speaker’s Bureau – Through our Speaker’s Bureau service, PVLA allows arts and cultural organizations to engage some of the region’s most preeminent legal minds for speaking engagements and presentations to their members or event attendees. These presentations can cover a wide variety of legal topics and issues, and can be held at forums ranging from small monthly gatherings to larger conferences. Interested organizations should include in their application notes about:

  1. The anticipated audience (i.e. size and composition);
  2. The anticipated forum (i.e. venue and event context); and
  3. The anticipated topic (i.e. legal issue or subject of discussion)

Pro Bono Eligibility

Eligibility to receive pro bono legal services through PVLA is determined based on the following three criteria:

Subject Matter – To ensure that we remain true to our core mission of supporting the Philadelphia arts and cultural community, PVLA limits the types of cases and clients that we work with. The client must be an individual artist, arts collective, or arts & cultural nonprofit or for-profit organization with an “arts-related” legal issue.  PVLA defines the term “art” broadly to include both traditional artistic disciplines (e.g. fine art, music, dance, theater, film etc.) as well as more modern forms of creative expression (e.g. animation, game design, user experience, web design, etc.). The types of legal issues handled by PVLA attorneys are widely varied, implicating a wide array of legal practice areas.

Geography – Due to staff capacity and volunteer availability, PVLA’s pro bono arts-related legal services are offered predominantly to clients currently living or headquartered within the Greater Philadelphia region. This area encompasses Philadelphia County and surrounding counties located in southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and northern Delaware. In limited circumstances, PVLA may accept cases from clients outside of our normal geographic range where the client has demonstrated that no alternative legal services are available.

Financial – In an effort to ensure that our pro bono legal services are provided to those who need them most, PVLA limits pro bono eligibility to clients demonstrating significant financial need. PVLA determines financial need by gathering and reviewing the client’s income and asset information and measuring it against the appropriate financial eligibility threshold. These financial eligibility threshold amounts vary depending on the type of client, as well as the size and composition of the client’s household.

Additional Services

Courtesy Attorney List – For artists and arts organizations unable to complete their application for pro bono legal services, either due to financial ineligibility or severe time constraints, PVLA can provide the names and contact information of 2-3 attorneys from our volunteer network whom the client can engage for paid or reduced-fee legal services (fees subject to rates and policies of the attorney or their firm). This service is provided as a courtesy, and clients are not obligated to contact or hire any of the attorneys provided. Any legal services or attorney-client relationship stemming from client conversations with attorneys provided through a Courtesy Attorney List are entirely independent from PVLA.

Educational Materials – For clients seeking answers or guidance with regard to relatively basic legal questions, PVLA maintains a database of educational and reference material on a variety of  legal topics relevant to the arts. PVLA can distribute these materials to clients upon request, or upon determination that the client’s question or issue does not require the attention of an attorney. Clients whose legal questions or issues have not been fully addressed by review of these educational materials may contact PVLA with follow up requests for legal services of an attorney.

Outside Agency Referrals – For applicants requesting assistance with a non-arts-related legal matter, or who are located outside of our geographic service area, PVLA will seek to provide referrals to other legal service organizations better suited to handling the client’s legal issue. This service is provided as a courtesy, and clients are not obligated to contact or engage any of the organizations provided. Any legal services obtained or offered from any of the organizations provided through an Outside Agency Referral are entirely independent from PVLA.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Financial Eligibility Guidelines for PVLA Clients?

  • Individual Clients: Must demonstrate household income and assets below 300% of the federal poverty line (adjusted based on size and composition of household).
  • Artist Collectives: Each member of the collective must demonstrate household income and assets below 300% of the federal poverty line (adjusted based on size and composition of that member’s household).
  • Arts & Cultural Organizations: Must demonstrate an annual operating budget for the organization under $1 Million.

What Does the Term “Pro Bono” Mean?

An attorney assigned to a client for a “pro bono” project through PVLA will provide legal services to the client on a volunteer basis, and will not charge any attorney’s fees for time spent working on the case by either that attorney or others at their firm. This pro bono service typically also covers minor incidental expenses incurred by the attorney or their firm as a result of representation, such as costs associated with document printing or postage.

However, where the client’s goals for a pro bono project require payment of any significant third-party expenses – such as filing fees, registration fees or court costs – the client will be held responsible for these expenses. Clients should ask their attorney about any anticipated third-party expenses for the project at the initial meeting in order to make a more informed decision about how the representation should proceed. For a complete list of all filings fees and costs, visit the USPTO’s Online Fee Schedule (PA Patent clients pay the Micro-entity fee).

Is There a Cost Associated with PVLA Services?

Due to the financial impact of COVID-19 on the creative sector, PVLA is currently waiving all pro bono client application fees for the foreseeable future.