Hiring a Nonprofit Attorney: What you need to Know?


When it comes to operating nonprofit organizations, employing legal services are getting bypassed most of the time because of their constraints with their budget. The truth is, it can be much cheaper to avail of legal services now in order to avoid encountering bigger problems in the future which might cost you more.

To help you, there is a relatively inexpensive San Diego nonprofit attorney which can help you with your legal needs when you start up with your organization. There are in fact a whole lot of options that are available for you to obtain good legal services to help you in your organization without having to spend a huge amount of money.

The following are some of the questions and answers regarding when and how to avail of legal services to help you with your nonprofit organization:

How much will a Nonprofit Attorney charge?

The total cost that your lawyer will charge you will depend on the services that you will need along with the lawyer’s fee structure. Most of these lawyers will charge you on one of these ways:

  1. On an hourly basis. Charging hourly basis is the most common way that lawyers are charging for their services. Their fees usually start at around $150 per hour, and it can go much higher for some lawyers who are more experience or are working in bigger cities.
  2. In flat fees. The benefit when a lawyer charges his or her clients with flat fees is that the client will know exactly how much they are going to pay up front. Charging flat fees may not be appropriate for every type of service, but lawyers may still willingly charge the client for a flat fee except for paperwork, contracts, business formation, intellectual property, and other real estate transactions.
  3. In hybrid fees. This is a combination of hourly and flat fees, which can also be another option, especially when this is related to case litigation. To illustrate, a lawyer may charge the client with a flatfee for the preparation and filing of a complaint or answer, and then charge the client for hourly fees for depositions and trial works.

You can most likely initiate your relationship with the lawyer thru free consultation, by phone, in person or through other online services. The consultation could last between fifteen to thirty minutes. However, a paid consultation might last for an hour or more, and you can also be able to get more substantive information.

Are there any free lawyers who can help your nonprofit organization?

With your business structure being nonprofit, you would, of course, prefer to spend your limited funds to your cause instead of spending it on legal services. But, there are a number of lawyers who will not agree with this type of arrangement. Ultimately, you may want to associate with a lawyer who is specializing in nonprofit organizations.

There are other alternatives that are available which can allow your nonprofit organization to acquire valuable legal services without having to shell out a huge sum of money. You can ask the lawyer about the following:

  1. You can ask for reduced fees. So if you have contacted a lawyer who usually charges clients with $200, you may try to negotiate with that lawyer to lawyer the fee to $150 to $100. There are some lawyers who agree to reduce their professional fees to help a good cause.
  2. You may ask to limit the scope of representation. This will mean that the lawyer will only handle a certain part of your legal needs. This means that, when for example your nonprofit organization is filing for an exemption, the board members could prepare the paperwork and then hire a lawyer who will be the one to review the document before it is being filed.
  3. You may request for a payment scheme. So, for example, when the lawyer charges you with a flat fee of $2,000, the lawyer may allow your organization to pay such amounts in monthly installments instead of paying the whole amount up front.

Frustrating as it is, that you cannot find a lawyer who will represent you for free, you have to keep in mind the time and the expertise that the lawyer is going to spend on your legal issues, notwithstanding the fact that such lawyer is also running his or her own business.

Do I really need to consult with a lawyer before I start forming a nonprofit organization?

There are a lot of tools that are available which could help you in forming a nonprofit organization without having to consult with a lawyer. But, every nonprofit organization is unique and it may all easily go astray. Here are some scenarios to illustrate:

  1. You might be forming the wrong type of business. You will have to choose whether you will form a nonprofit corporation or a nonprofit limited liability company (LLC). Each kind has its own advantages and disadvantages, so if the form that you have chosen turns out to be incompatible with your nonprofit activities, then you will have to spend additional time and money for you to fix the problem. Having a brief consultation with a lawyer can help you in your decision to choose which form can fit you best.
  2. You might fail to observe applicable laws. Nonprofit corporations will have to abide with both state and federal laws, and the applicable portions of these laws can be difficult to find, combine, and interpret. As an illustration, nonprofit organizations are required to be transparent with how they deal with their funds and the implementation of strict financial record-keeping systems. Consulting with a lawyer who understands these complexities can guide you.
  3. There might be proper language in internal documents that are excluded. Nonprofit organizations must adopt bylaws and a policy on conflict of interest which needs to use specific language in order for the organization to receive tax exemption from the IRS and have the organization’s articles of incorporation accepted by the state where it does business.


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