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Lawyers for Nonprofit Organizations: What to Ask

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Starting a nonprofit organization can be difficult. For starters, you would probably be working on a limited budget. This significantly cuts your ability to pay for products or services that you would otherwise need for the organization. However, while hiring a lawyer can be quite expensive, it’s something that you need.

This article will help you navigate your way as to how a lawyer can be beneficial for your organization, what type of lawyer you need, and if there are alternatives for hiring one, especially if you don’t have the budget.

What Type of Lawyer Do You Need?

There are many different types of lawyers that specialize in various fields. Your nonprofit organization might need different attorneys, depending on what your organization focuses on. Nonetheless, below are some of the most common lawyers needed in nonprofit organizations.

Commercial Lawyer

If your organization regularly negotiates with corporate businesses, you might need to consult a commercial law firm. This type of lawyer focuses on commerce, which is the buying and selling of various goods and services. Some businesses seek the help of nonprofit organizations to promote a product. On the other hand, nonprofit organizations sometimes need businesses for sponsorship or events, having a commercial lawyer on your side will be beneficial.

Intellectual Property Lawyer

Most nonprofit organizations are formed under the same idea or vision, which sometimes leads to creating various products, services, or artworks. You want to make sure that these are properly protected. An intellectual property or IP lawyer helps you get copyright, patent, or trademark to prevent other companies or businesses from using your ideas.

Tax Lawyer

As we have mentioned, a nonprofit organization often works around a limited budget. This brings the question of where they get the money to avail products or services. Thankfully, there are all kinds of funding sources for nonprofit organizations. However, you want to make sure that you get these funds whole. Having a tax lawyer in your organization will help you be educated in different tax laws to ensure that your funds are not affected.

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How Much Money Do You Have?

The next question you want to ask yourself is how much budget your organization has for hiring lawyers. Depending on the lawyer, charges differ according to the rate. Some of the most common fee structures for lawyers are listed below.

Hourly Fee

The most usual fee structure for lawyers is to charge an hourly fee. This often starts at around $150 for every hour. However, lawyers who work in big cities or have quite a lot of experience in the field charge higher.

Flat Fee

If you’re unsure whether your organization can pay for a lawyer or not, it’s best to hire a lawyer that has a flat fee structure. The benefit is that you would know upfront how much you need to take from your organization’s budget. However, not all law services have this payment option.

Hybrid Fee

Lastly, lawyers also charge based on a hybrid fee. This is a combination of a flat and an hourly fee. A hybrid fee is often offered when the service includes filing a complaint or answer, which is where you will need to pay for the flat fee. After this, succeeding services such as trial work or legal advice might be charged under the hourly fee structure.

Alternatives if You Don’t Have Budget

Nonprofit organizations don’t always have the capacity to avail law services, or they would sometimes rather use the funds to further their cause instead of paying for a lawyer. However, since the need for a lawyer is inevitable, are there alternative payment options?

Reduced Fees

Some lawyers would have the heart to lower their fees to support a good cause. For example, if your lawyer often charges around $150 per hour, you can negotiate and ask if they can lower it down to $100 instead.

Limited Scope Representation

If you have someone in the organization who is quite knowledgeable about the law, or you need a lawyer for a minor task, you can opt for a limited scope representation. This means that some segments of the case, such as the paperwork, are handled by your members, and only the necessary parts are left to your attorney.

Payment Plan

A flat fee can be difficult for a nonprofit organization to pay upfront. That’s why it’s essential that you also ask your lawyer if there is an alternative payment plan available. For example, if the flat fee is around $1,500, you can ask your lawyer if you can pay for the whole amount over the next few months.

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