Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What exactly does Lawyers Clearinghouse do?

A: Lawyers Clearinghouse matches Massachusetts nonprofits and homeless individuals with pro bono lawyers. We also sponsor legal seminars and workshops for nonprofits.

Q: Why have a clearinghouse instead of offering direct legal services?

A: The clearinghouse model allows us to operate efficiently and effectively. By fostering relationships with hundreds of lawyers throughout the Commonwealth, we are able to draw from a large pool of talented lawyers who want to volunteer their time and skills to serve others. This eliminates our need for a large staff and helps us maximize our impact on a small budget.

It also provides a unique opportunity for corporate, tax and real estate attorneys to apply their expertise on a pro bono basis.

Q: Which nonprofits does Lawyers Clearinghouse serve?

A: Originally, the Clearinghouse was created to serve nonprofits with missions focused in the areas of affordable housing and homelessness. We now serve many more Massachusetts nonprofits or groups that want to become a nonprofit that cannot afford legal services.

The organization should be nonprofit or seek to establish nonprofit status, provide services to low or moderate income people or serve a compelling community need, and be unable to afford legal services or demonstrate that the cost of obtaining assistance would adversely affect their ability to fulfill their mission.

Q: How does a nonprofit get pro bono legal assistance?

A: The nonprofit can receive pro bono help by contacting the Clearinghouse and submitting an application.  In order to be eligible, the organization must be nonprofit or seek nonprofit status and it should be unable to afford legal services.

Q: What sort of cases do you take at the Massachusetts Legal Clinic for the Homeless?

A: We take on a wide variety of cases depending on the needs of the client.  Common cases include helping clients obtain Social Security or Unemployment benefits, assisting them with housing issues, and addressing CORI-related matters. We do not take any domestic relations cases (divorce, custody, child support, etc.) or represent defendants in criminal trials.

Q: Who are the attorneys who take pro bono cases through the Clearinghouse?

A: Hundreds of lawyers from several Massachusetts law firms, both large and small, usually practicing corporate, tax and real estate law.

Q: How does a homeless person get pro bono legal assistance?

A: Legal assistance is available by contacting the Clearinghouse or signing up at one of our shelter partner locations (Pine Street Inn, St. Francis House, or Medeiros Center).

Q: How much will it cost to get a lawyer?

A: We find lawyers who are willing to take cases pro bono, meaning there is no cost for the legal services provided to clients. However, we do charge an administrative fee for nonprofit case placement and some of our legal workshops for nonprofits require a small registration fee that can be waived in certain circumstances.

Q: How is the Lawyers Clearinghouse funded?

A: The Clearinghouse relies on foundation grants, law firm and individual donations, and its annual fundraiser to support its operations. In Fiscal Year 2012, our total agency budget was $213,000 and we were able to facilitate the donation of nearly $5 million in pro bono legal services.

Q: How can I get involved?

A: There are several ways. You can: