“Charity Corps” to offer free legal advice to nonprofits

The New York State Bar Association and state Attorney General’s office announced today that they are teaming up to link volunteer attorneys with nonprofit organizations that need legal advice but can’t afford to hire lawyers.

Called the “Charity Corps,” the program will launch in 2012 and serve as many as 50 nonprofits in its first year, with organizations serving the needs of indigent people receiving top priority. Corps lawyers will offer nonprofits advice on issues such as board governance, fiduciary responsibilities, and nonprofit law compliance.

“New York’s attorneys stand ready to serve our important charitable sector – housing, shelter and youth programs, mental health and crisis intervention clinics, high school dropout prevention programs, relief and development assistance, civil rights organizations, veterans’ assistance groups and others – by helping them with their governance and legal compliance needs,” Bar Association president Vincent E. Doyle III said in a news release.

The pro bono lawyers who sign up for what has been named the “Charity Corps” will be trained by the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau, which supervises charitable organizations to protect donors and ensure donations are used properly. The Bar Association will administer the program and a committee chaired by Lesley Rosenthal, the VP general counsel and secretary of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, will oversee it.

“Nonprofits are vital to our local communities and state, and we are committed to ensuring that they continue their important work – especially at a time when their services are most in need,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in the same news release.

Nonprofits who want to be part of the program must apply by Dec. 31 at http://www.nysba.org/CharityCorps.