Finding a lawyer is an important step for your nonprofit organization. The type of lawyer your nonprofit chooses should depend on how established your nonprofit is, the size of your nonprofit, and the legal issues your nonprofit needs solved.
The following can help your nonprofit as it sifts through the many choices of lawyers and law firms.
Your nonprofit will need to choose whether it wants to work with a solo lawyer (perhaps someone starting out) or a larger law firm. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages. Your nonprofit's needs may change over time, so it’s possible the best strategy will be to begin working with a solo lawyer, and then transition to a larger firm as you grow.
Solo lawyers. Working with a solo lawyer has its advantages. For example, your nonprofit will have only one point of contact and will always know who’s working on an issue. Solo lawyers also tend to offer lower fees and alternative fee arrangements, which can be beneficial for a nonprofit.
But working with a solo lawyer also has its disadvantages. A solo lawyer may practice in only one area of law. For example, a solo lawyer may handle only contracts, so that if your nonprofit has a trademark dispute, you will have to find another lawyer to work with for that dispute. Your nonprofit might need to develop relationships with several different solo lawyers, whom you can call depending on the legal issue at hand.
Larger law firms. Alternatively, your nonprofit could choose to work with a larger law firm. Many larger law firms cover a variety of practice areas, including business law, contracts, intellectual property, and litigation. Working with a larger law firm will allow your nonprofit to work with one point of contact no matter what the legal issue, although your nonprofit will likely be working with different attorneys within the same firm.
While there is convenience and efficiency in that, there could also be higher fees, as larger firms tend to charge more and may not be open to alternative fee arrangements. Your nonprofit may also have difficulty getting in touch with an attorney, as larger firms usually have receptionists, assistants, and paralegals on the front lines.
Nonprofits are unique in that their legal needs touch on many different practice areas, and their needs change over time. Regardless of whether your nonprofit has just started or is more established, it will encounter several different areas of law.
One lawyer may be able to handle all of these areas for your nonprofit, but it’s more likely that your nonprofit will need several different lawyers, depending on what issues it’s facing.
If your nonprofit needs help finding a lawyer, there are many places to look. One is to ask other nonprofits, friends, family, or colleagues for a recommendation. Another option is to use Nolo’s Lawyer Directory, which can help locate a lawyer based on practice area and geographical location.
Finding a good lawyer, or team of lawyers, is an important step for your nonprofit. Nonprofits have unique needs and may need to work with more than one lawyer to cover each legal issue that they encounter. Keeping the above information in mind can help your nonprofit navigate the process of finding a lawyer.