VOLUNTEER LAWYERS FOR THE ARTS (VLA) PROVIDES PRO BONO LEGAL ASSISTANCE TO LOW-INCOME ARTISTS AND SMALL ARTS ORGANIZATIONS FOR ARTS-RELATED LEGAL NEEDS.
If you are a attorney licensed to practice in Pennsylvania, the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council invites you to become a VLA volunteer attorney. If you are an arts professional or arts organization, consider applying for assistance with your arts-related legal issues. VLA is affiliated with the Allegheny County Bar Association through the Pro Bono Center of the Allegheny County Bar Foundation, which oversees a network of providers of pro bono legal assistance. The VLA Program:
- Provides small and mid-sized arts organizations, and low-income artists, with pro bono legal assistance for arts-related legal needs;
- Provides rewarding opportunities for attorneys who enjoy involvement with the arts wish to support the vitality of Pittsburgh's arts scene through volunteer service;
- Provides malpractice insurance coverage through the Allegheny County Bar Association
- Promotes cooperation, understanding and communication between the arts and law;
- Increases leadership on behalf of the arts among attorneys and law firms.
Client Applications: VLA Client Application by Individual Artists
Volunteer Application: VLA Attorney Application
Is your project finished? Fill out the Final Report Survey.
Are you a current volunteer? Check out our Volunteer Resource Page for more information!
Frequently Asked Questions about VLA
Who is eligible to apply for assistance?
Assistance is available to individuals with an adjusted gross income of less than $27,925 in the most recent calendar year. The most recently-completed tax return must be submitted with the application as proof of income. If you live in a multi-person household (i.e. if you have kids, a partner, etc.), the total household income allowed goes up by $9,990 for each additional member of household (see the Income Chart ). If you're wondering, we base financial eligibility for pro bono ser vice on 250% of the poverty level, as defined every January by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Assistance is available to nonprofit organizations with operating expenses less than $250,000 in the most recently-completed fiscal year. Audited financial statements or other proof of budget size must be provided with the application. If you are considering forming a new non-profit organizaiton, please see our Nonprofit Formation Assistance page.
How do I apply for assistance?
To get started, fill out an application the application form for an VLA Client Application by Individual Artists or VLA Client Application by Arts Organizations. Applications may be submitted by email or regular mail.
How much does it cost to apply?
What types of cases are eligible?
VLA is available only for arts-related legal matters. Eligible requests can include (but are not limited to) copyright, intellectual property, contracts, nonprofit compliance, facilities leases, insurance and tax matters and liabilities of board of directors. VLA does NOT cover:
Criminal cases, where you have a statutory right to a pro bono, public defender.
Cases in which monetary damages/attorneys fees are recoverable. If the damages you are seeking to recover are less than $8,000, you should represent yourself without an attorney in Small Claims Court before a magistrate (think Judge Judy without the drama.) To find the district that has jurisdiction over your matter, click here. For matters where damages exceed $8,000, you may need to hire an attorney on contingency (think "We don't get money unless we get money for you.") To find an attorney, contact the Lawyer Referral Service of the Allegheny Bar Association.
With questions about which types of court is appropriate for your case, view the Guide to Pennsylvania Courts.
How do I become a volunteer?
What are the expectations of volunteers?
The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council is looking for bright, committed legal professionals who have a passion for arts and culture and a desire to work pro bono for area nonprofits. Projects range from a single consultation to several months. Attorneys must be licensed to practice in Pennsylvania.
All attorneys working on pro bono matters through VLA are covered by the malpractice insurance of the Allegheny Bar Association, through the Pro Bono Cener. VLA attorneys are expected to provide assistance to at least one VLA client each calendar year.
- How does the matching process work?
- Requests are matched in 6 easy steps:
1. The client submits an application to GPAC
2. GPAC staff screens the application for eligibility
3. GPAC staff sends a monthly email to VLA attorneys, with an anonymous description of all open requests.
5. A VLA attorney who expresses interest in a specific request is sent the client application to begin his/her normal pro bono process (conflict of interest check, approval by firm's pro bono committee, etc.)
- 6. The VLA attorney contacts the client to begin the work, or contacts GPAC staff to decline the request. At the end of the relationship, the attorney is responsible to report to GPAC staff the total hours volunteered.
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