LawWorks for Community Groups FAQs
1. How does the LawWorks for Community Groups project work?
LawWorks for Community Groups provides pro bono legal advice through a network of volunteer lawyers. We act as a broker between community groups in need of legal help and lawyers who are willing to provide the help for free. Once we have advised a group that we have accepted their application, we approach law firms and in-house legal teams who have lawyers with relevant expertise and ask them if they can assist. When a firm confirms they are able to help, we put the group in touch with the firm and they liaise directly from that point.
2. Who can apply to the LawWorks for Community Groups project?
Not-for-profit organisations, such as charities, social enterprises, community interest companies and voluntary and community organisations. However, please see question 3 which outlines the eligibility restrictions for the project.
3. What are the project’s eligibility criteria? How does LawWorks decide whether to accept an application?
There are many factors we consider when deciding whether to accept an application. If we reject an application, we will inform the organisation and try to refer them to another organisation that may be able to help them. The key factors are as follows:
The aims and benefits of the organisation
We do not accept applications from the following kinds of organisations:
- residents’ associations
- animal welfare organisations
- private leisure and sports clubs
- professional or trade associations
- organisations whose primary object or purpose is the promotion of religion
- international organisations whose primary focus is on benefiting communities overseas (unless they also benefit communities in the UK)
- organisations whose primary object, purpose or activity is campaigning, lobbying or political activity
We also check the following details about a community group:
- information about the community group and its work as stated on its website (and elsewhere on the internet) to help us clarify what the group does
- information about who benefits from the community group’s activities
- records on Charity Commission and Companies House websites to ensure that this information matches that on the application
The finances of the organisation
We look at a community group’s accounts and check that the annual income of the organisation is below £500,000. We make a decision on a case-by-case basis depending on the following information:
- proportion of income that is restricted and unrestricted
- whether there is a budget for legal fees
- level of reserves
If a community group does not have any accounts because it is newly formed, we ask to see a business plan and check the financial predictions. We look at how the community group expects to be funded and that it is clear about the structure and activities of the organisation.
If a community group is newly formed and its members are not completely sure about its structure, aims and objectives, we tend to refer them to their local Council for Voluntary Service (CVS) for help with these basic queries (details of the locations of CVSs throughout England and Wales are available here). This is because many of the questions and issues at this stage are not legal ones and can often be more swiftly answered by other services. LawWorks has also created a factsheet outlining the implications of the different legal structures for community groups.
The legal assistance required
We check through the advice the community group requires and ask for more information if we require any clarification. We are unable to help with the following legal issues:
- family, criminal or immigration law
- representation at court or tribunal (please contact the Bar Pro Bono Unit to apply for this kind of support)
- internal disputes (e.g. disputes between a community group’s trustees or directors)
- assistance with drafting documents from scratch
For information on support in these excluded areas, please contact the Community Groups team.
4. How do I apply to LawWorks for Community Groups?
- Fill in our online application form, giving as much information as possible
- Send a copy of your latest accounts, business plan or other financial information (details of where to send this information are on the application form)
If you require a large-print or hard copy version of this form, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7092 3940 and ask to speak to someone from the LawWorks for Community Groups team.
5. How long will it take to receive legal assistance?
Once you submit your application, one of the Community Groups team will contact you within three days to confirm whether we are able to assist, and to clarify any questions we might have. If we accept your application, it can take us up to three weeks (and sometimes longer) to locate a suitable lawyer with the time and expertise to assist you. However, this time period varies from case to case and depends on the availability of our volunteer lawyers. If your case is very urgent or if you have a specific date by which you need advice, please contact us to discuss this and we will see whether we are able to assist, or refer you to another organisation that may be able to help more quickly.
Please note that even if your application is approved, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to find a legal advisor to assist, although we will always try our best.
6. My request for assistance has been accepted by a law firm. Does this mean I can now approach them for further advice once my current issue has been resolved?
The simple answer is no. This is because the lawyers who participate in the LawWorks for Community Groups project are working on a pro bono basis, completing this free work on top of their already heavy case load, and each lawyer is a specialist in a different area of law. If a group requires further advice, we ask them to contact us instead and we will try and find another lawyer able to assist with their new legal issue.
7. What do I do if there are any problems with my volunteer lawyer?
If you experience any problems with your volunteer lawyer, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will do our best to help.
8. We have an internal dispute within our organisation - can we obtain legal advice from LawWorks for Community Groups?
This will depend on who is involved in the dispute:
- If the dispute is between trustees or members of the board, then we are unable to help. This is because any lawyer taking on a case through the LawWorks for Community Groups project would be taking on the community group as a client. A dispute between those who govern an organisation makes it very unlear who the lawyer is advising. Please contact the Community Groups team if you would like advice on other sources of support for internal disputes.
- If the dispute is between the group and an individual employee of the group, then we can normally help, as the lawyer would be able to take instructions from the community group as an employer. However, please note that our lawyers are not able to provide any representation at tribunals.
If you are unsure whether the LawWorks for Community Groups project might be able to assist with your dispute, please contact the Community Groups team.
Still got some questions?
We hope that this section is helpful, but if you are unsure, or if you have any questions that are not answered here, please contact the LawWorks for Community Groups Team at email@example.com or on 020 7092 3940.