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Legal Referrals

Get advice and support for your newsroom’s legal needs

The need for a la carte prepublication of review has been one of the most-requested legal services among the INN membership, according to a recent INN study with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Lawyers for Reporters 

Lawyers for Reporters provides pro bono legal representation to local news organizations in the United States. Working with lawyers at law firms all across the country, the organization’s team of special counsels provide direct client representation. Clients include print and online publishers, radio, freelance journalists, photographers, documentarians, videographers and many more. 

Services include:

  • Pre-publication review
  • Newsgathering liability advice
  • Subpoena  defense
  • Access litigation
  • Defense against defamation actions
  • Intellectual property licensing
  • Dispute resolution

Contact Lawyers for Reports

About: The Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice and the Press Freedom Defense Fund of First Look Institute developed Lawyers for Reporters to provide pro bono legal assistance to local news and public interest organizations in the United States. 

Journalists facing legal threats intended to prevent story publication or chill their reporting: Don’t decide whether to back down until you’ve called the Press Freedom Defense Fund. The PFDF is run by First Look Media as a resource for funding when a news organization faces wealthy individuals weaponizing defamation law to try to chill stories of public importance.

“No accurate article about matters of public importance should be spiked because the publisher fears that it does not have the resources to defend its work,” said PFDF Legal Director David Bralow.

Help is here.


INN is a referral partner with TrustLaw, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono legal program. TrustLaw is an innovative program that links high-impact NGOs and social enterprises organizations like yours with top global law firms that provide their legal expertise for free.

Projects range from common legal matters that arise in the course of day-to-day operations (e.g. advice concerning general commercial matters, intellectual property protection, employment issues, etc.), to large multi-jurisdictional research and programs.

Services include:

  • Legal research on laws and policy across multiple countries to identify best practices or policy gaps
  • Drafting or reviewing commercial agreements, such as partnership contracts or sales contracts
  • Protecting your organization’s intellectual property, including trademarks or copyright advice
  • Creating template employment contracts for staff/volunteers or assisting with general employment/HR issues

About: TrustLaw is the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono legal program. We connect high-impact NGOs and social enterprises working to create social and environmental change with the best law firms and corporate legal teams to provide them with free legal assistance. We produce groundbreaking legal research and offer innovative training courses worldwide.

TrustLaw does not handle urgent requests or litigation. Also, please keep in mind that all requests must be submitted on behalf of your organization, not an individual. In addition, TrustLaw is not able to assist with disputes or immigration matters.

For additional information about the types of legal assistance, you can request through TrustLaw, see a list of Frequently Asked Questions.

Public records requests: To file FOIAs, research and find related how-tos, turn to INN member MuckRock for help. You also can find public records previously requested and made public by others.

For state and federal FOIA filings: Visit, a service of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP).

The NFOIC’s Knight FOI Fund and SPJ Legal Defense Fund offer financial support in open government lawsuits. You can apply for them separately or jointly.

  • The Knight FOI Fund was established to fuel and assist in the pursuit of important FOI cases by helping to defray upfront costs such as filing fees, depositions, court costs and other expenses associated with legal actions. Only in rare circumstances do Knight FOI Fund grant awards also include direct outlays for attorney fees. The program is run by the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC).
  • The primary role of the SPJ Legal Defense Fund is to initiate and support litigation that enforces public access to government records and proceedings, which can be the most expensive way to defend the First Amendment. The fund can also be a source of support for FOI hotlines, coalitions and newsletters, as well as for legislative lobbying activities aimed at enforcing public access to government records and proceedings.

State FOI Hotline Directory from the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) and its state affiliates.

RCFP Legal Defense and FOIA Hotline:

1.800.336.4243 or hotline at

The Reporters Committee Legal Defense and FOIA Hotline is available to journalists and media lawyers at any time, but nonemergency requests or questions about services and publications will be answered more promptly during normal office hours (9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time).

Student Law: INN has partnered with the Student Press Law Center. The SPLC offers legal support for campus-based journalism.

Services include:

  • A network of 190 pro-bono referral attorneys on call to assist with legal matters from prepublication review to open-records denials.
  • A library of teaching and reference materials covering a wide range of media-law topics including copyright, libel, privacy and access issues.
  • An automated fill-in-the-blanks letter generator keyed to each state’s freedom-of-information statute.
  • Email news alerts about developments in the courts and legislatures affecting press freedom and access to records and meetings.

About: The Student Press Law Center works at the intersection of law, journalism and education to promote, support and defend the rights of student journalists and their advisers at the high school and college levels. Founded in 1974, SPLC is the only organization in the U.S. devoted to providing free legal information and free or low-cost educational materials to student journalists and their advisers.

Rate: Attorney fees differ by state, but an average rate across the U.S. is $250-$450 per hour.

Many nonprofits get pro bono help from a law firm they know through personal or professional connections to file their 501(c)3 applications with the IRS. For those getting paid help, many INN members report prep and filing fees in the $3,000-$4,000 range.

Two firms that have received high marks from journalism colleagues for help with basic nonprofit law and filings:

Sustainable Law Group, Los Angeles

Cutting Edge Counsel, Oakland

See also: Information about Editorial and Business Ethics are on the Editorial resources webpage.

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