Q&A: Starting a Free Legal Clinic

What do our church and the attorneys need to know?

My church would like to start a free annual legal clinic for our community. What legal considerations should our church and the participating attorneys take into account?
If the church can find attorneys willing to participate in the event and take on the potential liabilities associated with providing free legal advice, the church first needs to contact the local bar association to determine whether there are any local jurisdictional rules that may apply when holding a free legal clinic.
If no such rules prohibit this type of activity, the church will need to make sure that it has strong liability waivers in place for all participants to sign prior to participating in the event. Participants should agree not to hold the church and/or the participating attorneys liable for any advice they receive during the clinic which is not to their liking, or is based upon inaccurate and/or omitted facts. Participants should also acknowledge that the legal clinic is being held for the purpose of addressing simple legal questions. Participants with complex issues or facing ongoing legal problems (i.e. a lawsuit, divorce, bankruptcy, extensive estate planning, etc.) will, obviously, not be able to obtain advice regarding all of their issues during this clinic.

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