FAQ

1) Who qualifies for legal assistance from the VLA?

The VLA provides legal assistance to artists (any discipline) and arts and cultural organizations of all disciplines. If you do not qualify for legal assistance through the VLA, however we will do our best to locate the best organization to suit your needs.

2) What is the process for obtaining legal assistance from the VLA of Massachusetts?

In order to obtain legal assistance from the VLA, we request you submit an Application for Legal Assistance and pay an application fee. The Application may be sent by email, post or by fax. In order to qualify for pro bono services, the VLA requires verification of your annual income. Every two weeks, the VLA sends a list of all outstanding cases to its panel, and if the attorneys have the necessary expertise and time, the request the case.

3) How long will it take for me to get an attorney referral?

The VLA sends out case summaries to its 400 panel attorneys every other week. The process can take as little as a few days, or much longer depending upon the time of year and legal issue involved. Please call the office to check the status of your application.

4) What should I do when I get a referral letter?

You may contact the attorney, if he or she has not already contacted you, when you receive the referral letter. Please try and make contact with your referral attorney as soon as possible, as they are often very busy and may no longer be free to take your case, if you wait too long to contact them. If for whatever reason, the attorney cannot take your case, please contact the VLA as soon as possibly so we can locate alternative counsel.

5) How many attorneys may I choose from?

If your case is deemed to be eligible for pro bono (free) representation, you will be given the name of one attorney, chosen by the VLA. If you do not qualify for pro bono assistance, you may participate in our VLA Fee Incurring referral program (see below for an explanation), you will be given up to three names of attorneys who are interested in your case. (Fewer than three attorneys may be referred if fewer attorneys express an interest in your case.) You may choose which attorney you decide to work with. Although you may consult with all three attorneys, DO NOT allow more than one attorney to represent you in the matter. You may think it is a good strategy to have more than one attorney working for you, but you will cause more harm than good to your case.

6) How do I get free legal assistance?

In order to qualify for free legal assistance, your income must fall below a certain level, determined by the VLA. (As a rule, we do not release this information.) If multiple people (groups) are seeking representation in a single matter, the VLA will adjust its income requirements based on the number of interested artists that apply for assistance together. In order to qualify for pro bono representation, a copy of an artist's most recent tax return must be submitted. An arts organization's pro bono eligibility is determined by its operating budget. In order to qualify for pro bono service, an arts organization must submit a copy of its most recent operating budget.

7) How free is free?

Pro bono (free) legal assistance may not be "free" as defined by the dictionary. The pro bono program waives only the fees generated by the attorney (either hourly or pre-set). The artist is responsible for any out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the attorney such as filing fees, court costs, discovery expenses and other expenses as well. Make sure you discuss any possible expenses during your initial discussions with your attorney.

8) What if I don't qualify for free legal assistance?

If your income falls outside of our pre-determined limits, you will still be eligible for a legal referral. It is up to you and your attorney to settle on an appropriate fee for the case. The VLA generally does not get involved in fee disputes between you and your attorney.