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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.

David Middlebrook is an attorney licensed to practice in Texas, Colorado, and the District of Columbia, and his practice emphasis is focused on representing tax-exempt organizations.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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Posted:
  • September 21, 2010

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