FAQ

What kind of assistance does Community Law Center provide?

What does Community Law Center do?

Community Law Center provides legal services to new and existing community associations, grassroots organizations, homeowner associations, and nonprofits anywhere in Maryland.

Does Community Law Center help with litigation?

Yes, Community Law Center attorneys will assist organizations with litigation and administrative hearings.

Does my organization have to pay for a lawyer?

Community associations and nonprofit organizations within Baltimore City seeking legal assistance should send a completed application and the associated application fee to Community Law Center. Beyond the nonrefundable application fee, there are generally no fees charged for an assigned attorney’s time. Clients are responsible for direct expenses (filing fees, postage, copying expenses, etc.) related to their cases.

How can my organization become a client?

Prospective clients should complete the application form, include the application fee and all requested attachments, and mail it in to the attention of Robin Jacobs.  Upon receipt of the application, Ms. Jacobs will be in touch with the organization’s designated contact person.

Who are the attorneys that take cases through Community Law Center?

Community Law Center has four attorneys on staff.  Each Staff Attorney maintains a caseload that conforms to particular grant requirements.  If an accepted case meets grant guidelines, that organization may be matched with a Staff Attorney.  If the accepted case falls outside of CLC’s grant guidelines or Staff Attorneys are unable to take on additional cases, the case will be assigned to a volunteer attorney.  Community Law Center has over 250 volunteer attorneys from many different law firms across Maryland.

What kind of legal issues does Community Law Center handle?

Community Law Center handles any legal issue a nonprofit faces, including: formation, revival, and maintenance of nonprofit organizations (including drafting bylaws, filing articles of incorporation, and submitting tax exemption applications); real estate leases; transfer of real property; zoning decision appeals; contracts (drafting and negotiation); employment issues; copyright and trademark issues; drug nuisance abatement; liquor license protests; and much, much more!

Our nonprofit is incorporated in another state. Can Community Law Center help us?

No, unless the question involves activities in Maryland. For a list of organizations providing legal services to nonprofits in other states, click here.

Are there any cases involving nonprofits Community Law Center cannot handle?

Yes. Community Law Center cannot represent clients where there is a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest exists for any attorney when two clients – whether current or former clients – want different things on a particular matter.

What are the minimal requirements to become a client of Community Law Center?

At a minimum, a nonprofit must have a board, budget, and bylaws (unless requesting assistance with bylaws). For more information about becoming a client, see Completing the Application for Legal Services, below.

A neighbor, building, or business next to me is causing a problem. What can I do?

If possible, try talking to the owner face-to-face or sending a letter to resolve the problem. If that is not possible or does not work, call 911 or 311 to report the problem. For more about these types of concerns, consult Community Law Center’s publication, Revitalizing Baltimore’s Neighborhoods.

Our organization is an LLC or something other than a nonstock (nonprofit) corporation. Can Community Law Center help us?

Yes, as long as the organization plans to operate as a nonprofit, Community Law Center can help.

I am an individual or a for-profit business with a legal problem; can Community Law Center help?

No. Community Law Center can only assist nonprofit organizations. For a list of other legal services organizations in Maryland, click here.

I suspect a nonprofit is doing something illegal. What should I do?

If you suspect a nonprofit is doing something illegal and you are not on the Board of the nonprofit, report that to the Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division. If you are on the Board, obtain an attorney to assist the organization in remedying the situation and making any required disclosures.

Can Community Law Center help find board members? Can attorneys from Community Law Center serve on our Board?

No. Consider talking to Business Volunteers Unlimited.

Can Community Law Center help us fundraise?

No. Consult Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations or the Foundation Center.

Completing the Application for Legal Services

The following are frequently asked questions about the Application for Legal Services. If you need further assistance in completing the application, you can consult the FAQs for the Application for Legal Services by clicking here.

How do we ask for Community Law Center’s assistance with a legal matter?

Submit a completed Application for Legal Services, along with the application fee and all requested information regarding your case.

We have a legal issue that requires immediate assistance. Should we still apply for legal services?

Yes. Note the deadline on the top of the first page of the Application for Legal Services.

How long will it take to get an attorney?

While sometimes Community Law Center places cases quickly, it takes an average of 4 weeks after your application for services is complete for Community Law Center to find a pro bono attorney to assign to a case.

Why does it take an average of 4 weeks for Community Law Center to place cases with attorneys?

A staff attorney or paralegal reviews the application, creates a file, conducts a conflict of interest analysis, and determines and requests any additional information required from the client. Then, the case either gets assigned to a staff attorney or advertised to potential volunteer attorneys on an every-other-week basis. If a volunteer attorney expresses interest in a case, Community Law Center staff will provide him or her with additional information and a conflict check will be performed by the pro bono attorney before the case is placed with the pro bono attorney.

Can we meet with someone at Community Law Center to discuss our legal issue before we submit an Application for Legal Services?

No. Community Law Center’s small staff handles a tremendous volume of inquiries every year, which makes it unfeasible for Community Law Center to meet with everyone interested in legal services.

If we fill out an Application for Legal Services, will we definitely get an attorney?

No, but Community Law Center has a long history of successfully matching nonprofits with volunteer attorneys.

Starting a Nonprofit

We are starting a nonprofit, but do not have a board and/or bylaws yet. How can Community Law Center help us?

Consider attending Community Law Center’s How to Start a Nonprofit workshop, offered monthly. Be sure to register in advance, as workshops do fill up.

We have a board of directors and bylaws, but we are not sure what to do next. How can Community Law Center help us?

What is the Form 1023?

It is the application for recognition of 501(c)(3) tax-exemption from the IRS. All organizations wishing to obtain 501(c)(3) status must submit this form to the IRS.

What can we do before we get 501(c)(3) status, or if we are not prepared or ready to complete the Form 1023? What are our other options?

Consider entering into a written fiscal sponsorship agreement or partnering with an established 501(c)(3) organization.

How long will it take to get 501(c)(3) status?

Generally, it takes Community Law Center clients an average of one year to complete the Form 1023 and submit it to the IRS. Once a completed Form 1023 is submitted to the IRS, it can take several months to one year to receive 501(c)(3) status from the IRS.

Why does it take so long?

It takes an average of 4 weeks for Community Law Center to match a pro bono attorney to assign to a case. Once an attorney is assigned, the attorney will need time to review all the documents, meet with you, and work with you to complete the application. It is not uncommon for organizations to realize during this process that the organization needs to revise its bylaws, adopt a conflict of interest policy, amend its charter, rebuild its Board of Directors, or make other organizational updates and revisions before it can submit the Form 1023 to the IRS. The IRS then takes about 3-6 months (sometimes up to 1 year, especially for international organizations) to process the Form 1023.

What is the advantage of working with an attorney on the Form 1023?

While Community Law Center cannot make any guarantees about the outcome of a case, working with an attorney may save time by decreasing the likelihood of follow-up questions from the IRS.