To protect members of the Institute for Nonprofit News, we’ve made legal resources from our peers available for a reduced cost.
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. INN has arranged with the law firm Sheppard Mullin to provide this service as described below.
Terms of Prepublication Review agreement:
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.