Cultivating Pro Bono Community
Philadelphia is a city steeped in a rich history of legal practice and education, dating back to before the Constitutional Convention in 1776. Today, the city boasts some of the nation’s largest and most prestigious law firms, and is home to a number of acclaimed academic institutions known for producing some of the best and brightest attorneys in the country. Along with its legacy of preeminence in the legal profession, Philadelphia has developed a national reputation for having a particularly robust and active legal services community, with lawyers and students alike offering pro bono assistance to underprivileged and vulnerable segments of the region’s population. In this way, Philadelphia lives up to its title as the “City of Brotherly Love,” ensuring equal access to justice for all of it’s inhabitants.
For over 40 years Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts has been committed to shaping and cultivating the city’s pro bono community, engaging with attorneys and law students to provide legal services for under-resourced artists and arts organizations in the region. To support our ongoing efforts, PVLA actively recruits new volunteers to our organization each year to keep up with client demand for assistance. Together with our partners in the academic and professional world, PVLA continues to support a culturally diverse creative sector, enriching the lives of all who call Philadelphia home.
Attorneys interested in volunteering can follow the link below to submit an online volunteer application. Students interested in applying for a volunteer position as a Legal Services Coordinator with PVLA can follow the link below to email a cover letter and resume to PVLA’s Director. For more information on the roles and responsibilities of PVLA attorney and student volunteers, please review the information contained on the page below, or contact our Executive Director.
PVLA provides attorneys in the Philadelphia area with opportunities to engage in meaningful pro bono consultation and representation with clients in the arts and cultural sector. With clients from virtually every artistic discipline seeking professional assistance with a wide variety of legal issues, PVLA regularly conducts assignments to volunteers across a multitude of legal practice areas for both transactional and litigation-based projects. By conducting initial intake, eligibility screening, and project scoping for each prospective client, PVLA staff members ensure that each case comports with current pro bono best practices, enabling our volunteers to hit the ground running on every assignment.
Frequently Asked Questions – Attorneys
PVLA gives our volunteer attorneys the option to provide pro bono legal services on either a consultation or representation basis, and provides additional opportunities for pro bono speaking engagements or paid client referral. See below for a breakdown of available project categories:
- Legal Line – A one-time hour-long pro bono meeting with a PVLA client (either in-person or over the phone) to provide counsel and answer questions on a particular legal issue or topic.
- ArtFax – A one-time hour-long pro bono meeting with a PVLA client (either in-person or over the phone) to review and discuss a short legal document up to three pages in length.
- Full Service – Pro bono representation of a PVLA client for a pre-defined scope of work, subject to all the requirements of an attorney-client relationship. Examples of Full Service projects include contract negotiation and drafting, IP registration, entity formation and litigation.
- Speaker’s Bureau – Pro bono speaking engagements with PVLA organizational clients to present on a given legal subject or topic to their members or constituents.
- Courtesy Attorney Referral – Paid referral to PVLA volunteer attorneys for clients who do not qualify for pro bono legal services (regular or reduced rates set by the volunteer or their firm).
Due to the diversity of legal services requests submitted by our clients, PVLA engages volunteer attorneys across a wide range of legal disciplines. Common practice areas and skills include:
- Intellectual Property (copyright, trademark & patent registration)
- Entertainment Law (contract review, drafting & negotiation)
- Corporate and Nonprofit Law (entity formation, governance, M&A and dissolution)
- Litigation and Dispute Resolution (breach of contract, IP infringement, defamation, etc.)
- Real Estate Law (landlord-tenant disputes, zoning compliance and L&I work)
- Tax Law (Nonprofit tax exemption, tax compliance, IRS disputes, etc.)
- Trusts & Estates (Artist estate planning & wills drafting)
PVLA maintains professional liability insurance that can be used to cover the work of our volunteer attorneys. However, PVLA encourages volunteers already covered under a personal or firm-wide malpractice insurance policy to utilize these policies for primary coverage.
For Law Students
As a nonprofit legal services organization, PVLA utilizes the services of volunteer law students from law schools all across the Philadelphia area to act as Legal Services Coordinators (“LSCs”). These LSCs are tasked with processing client applications for legal services, tracking projects from start to finish in order to facilitate client intake, eligibility screening, project scoping and volunteer assignment on all PVLA cases. By working directly with PVLA clients and attorneys to assign pro bono matters, LSCs develop critical communication and client management skills and learn more about the legal issues and challenges facing members of the arts and entertainment industries, preparing them for a career in one of the many practice areas covered by PVLA’s services.
Frequently Asked Questions – Students
Students volunteering as an LSC with PVLA manage all aspects of the pro bono application and assignment process for cases that are assigned to them, and are expected to familiarize themselves with areas of law implicated in client requests. Typical LSC duties include:
- Conducting initial client intake to determine eligibility for pro bono services and category of pro bono service needed based on outlined PVLA policies and procedures;
- Serving as the primary point of contact for clients and attorneys on assigned cases, monitoring, recording and responding to all communications in a timely fashion;
- Conducting in-person client meetings on Full Service cases to gather additional facts and information and set client expectations for the scope of work;
- Coordinating conflicts check and assignment of PVLA cases through pro bono and paid referrals to volunteer attorneys; and
- Issuing follow-up communications to PVLA clients and attorneys on assigned pro bono matters to track project status and value metrics.
PVLA recruits law school students for our LSC positions during the Spring, Summer and Fall semesters, with applications typically accepted and reviewed 1-2 months prior to the start of each semester. Each LSC work period typically lasts 3 months, and aligns with academic calendars of law schools in the Philadelphia area.
Students accepting LSC positions during the Spring and Fall semesters are typically expected to work on a part-time basis at a minimum of 10-12 hours per week, with flexible work schedules crafted to fit their course requirements and extracurricular activities. Students accepting LSC positions during the Summer are expected to work on a full-time basis at 35 hours per week. PVLA’s Director works with students to set and modify work hours as needed.
Students accepting an LSC position with PVLA are eligible to receive course credit, pro bono credit, work study or fellowship funding for their volunteer work with PVLA. Eligibility for credit or funding are subject to all criteria and requirements set forth by the student’s law school, work study provider or fellowship coordinator. PVLA’s Director will work with students to coordinate and facilitate compliance with credit and/or funding requirements.