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Legal Referrals

Our peers and friends protect journalism outlets in multiple capacities. Review your work or protect your work post publication.

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.

Services include:

  • Prepublication review of individual articles pursuant to the terms below. Sheppard Mullin will not be providing any other advice or services to INN members unless they enter into a separate, written agreement with a particular INN member client.

Terms of Prepublication Review agreement:

  1. Before any prepublication review project is performed for an INN member for whom we have not previously provided such services, we will be provided with the full formal name of the member, its form of organization and state in which it is organized, and contact information for the person representing the member with whom we will be dealing, so that we can confirm that we have no ethical conflicts. If our review indicates that we have a conflict, we will not undertake the project. Because it can take some time to complete a conflict check, members who have not previously used our services should contact us and provide this information at least several days in advance of when they expect to need our services.
  2. Our fees for review and discussion with the member client of any ordinary individual piece will be a flat fee of $500, regardless of the amount of time spent. However, we reserve the right to determine at the outset of a project whether it falls outside normal parameters, that is, whether it is likely to require an unusual amount of time to review and discuss. If, in our opinion, any particular review project is likely to take more than 3-4 hours, we will have the right to require the payment of additional fees (in an amount to be agreed upon between us and the member client), or to decline the project. For the purposes of this matter, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, we will charge $500/hour for time in excess of two hours. If this is not acceptable to the member client, we will have the right to decline the project. We will not proceed with review of any piece for which a member client will be charged in excess of $500 without prior permission of the member client.
  3. As noted, our services will be limited to prepublication review, and will not include any other services, including but not limited to advising member clients with respect to demands for correction or retraction of pieces we have reviewed.
  4. Payment of the $500 fee will be due upon our acceptance of the project. If a member client asks us to take on a project that will result in fees of more than $500, a fee deposit of $500 will be due upon our acceptance of the project.
  5. While we do not anticipate that any significant disbursements will be entailed in our work for INN’s member clients in connection with this Matter, the member client will be responsible to reimburse us for or to pay in advance any necessary disbursements.

About: Sheppard Mullin is a full service Global 100 firm handling corporate and technology matters, high stakes litigation and complex financial transactions. From its 16 offices in North America, Europe and Asia, it offers global solutions to clients around the world, providing seamless representation in multiple jurisdictions. The firm has more than 800 attorneys.

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 ifoia.org, 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 rcfp.org

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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