Resource for Bay Area Nonprofits Serving the Poor: The SF Bar Association

SF Bar Association

In a few days, Root & Rebound will celebrate 4 months since we opened! As a startup nonprofit, R&R could not be where it is today without the extraordinary help of pro bono lawyers from all around the Bay Area. How did we find lawyers willing to help out Root & Rebound for FREE???

First, we reached out to our contacts from undergrad and law school. Through a friend-connection at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, two of their fabulous lawyers volunteered their time to help Root & Rebound prepare its IRS application for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience working with volunteer business law attorneys: they explained each and every component of the 501(c)(3) application and meticulously reviewed R&R’s answers. Around the same time, a friend from Berkeley Law School who helped kickstart the not-for-profit Family Violence Appellate Project told us to check in with the Bar Association of San Francisco for pro bono legal help… Look no further!

The SF Bar—through its own nonprofit, the Justice & Diversity Center (JDC)—provides pro bono (free!) legal and related social services to low-income and homeless San Francisco residents and to nonprofit organizations that serve these communities through the Community Organization Representation Project (CORP). CORP‘s mission is to provide free business law services to nonprofit organizations (like Root & Rebound!) that directly serve low-income and underserved communities in Northern California. The eligibility requirements are simple and straightforward: CORP assists 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations (and nonprofit organizations applying for 501(c)(3) status) that are based in Northern California, that directly serve low-income individuals and communities in Northern California, and have a budget of under $5 million.

CORP took on Root & Rebound as a client in December, and we have already received so much invaluable legal assistance from their panel of pro-bono attorneys– experienced business law attorney volunteers who provide pro bono transactional legal services in employment, corporate, contract, real estate, tax, and intellectual property law to qualifying nonprofit organizations.

What kind of pro bono assistance have we received?

Well, it crosses the gamut, as CORP and its attorneys have met so many of our legal needs. An attorney at Cooper, White & Cooper LLP reviewed Root & Rebound’s fiscal sponsorship agreement (an agreement that allows us to accept tax-deductible donations while we await our 501(c)(3) status determination) and helped us negotiate its terms; a volunteer attorney from Latham & Watkins LLP reviewed our incorporation documents and amended them, developed Board resolution templates, will be recording minutes for our first-ever Board meeting this week,  and is providing other legal support to the R&R Board; and most recently a volunteer attorney Haight, Brown & Bonesteel LLP who is providing counsel on R&R’s risk management and professional insurance needs. These attorneys have already dedicated many hours of pro bono services to Root & Rebound, treated us with the utmost respect and professionalism, and provided us with thousands of dollars worth of quality free legal services and counsel pertaining to R&R’s business and transactional law needs.

Examples of other types of pro bono services offered through CORP are: 

Nonprofit Incorporation

  • Obtain 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status
  • Individual placements, capacity building workshops, and innovative programs

Employment Law

  • Draft or update personnel manuals and policies
  • Obtain counsel when implementing economically driven layoff plans or furloughs
  • Ensure your employment classifications comply with labor laws

Intellectual Property

  • Protect trademarks
  • Copyright materials, such as training manuals or education textbooks
  • Protect websites and other Internet materials

Real Estate

  • Review rental leases
  • Buy or sell real estate
  • Resolve zoning questions

Corporate Governance and Structuring

  • Revise or update bylaws and other corporate documents
  • Prepare corporate policies, including conflicts of interest, records retention or whistleblower policies
  • Create and structure affiliate relationships
  • Draft fiscal sponsorship documents

Business Contracts

  • Draft contracts with vendors
  • Draft other types of agreements

Tax Law

  • Reinstate revoked 501(c)(3) status
  • Other tax-related matters

Other Preventative Measures

  • i.e., workshops on best practices relating to political activity, employees’ use of social media, etc.

CORP is unable to assist with litigation matters.

If you are in the Bay Area and believe your nonprofit may qualify, visit CORP’s website here and apply. If you are a nonprofit leader outside of Northern California, we encourage you to check with you local bar association to see what services, if any, they provide to nonprofits like yours. You might be surprised at the resources right under your nose!

—The R&R Team