Thank you for your interest in volunteering for OCI's Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts-Nebraska.
VLA-NE is an OCI program, designed to build a bridge between the creative community and lawyers dedicated to providing pro-bono legal assistance. This compliments OCI's mission of supporting local artists and building capacity for the arts & culture sector, through an individual artist lens. We are proud to bring this service to the creative community of Nebraska, further increasing the support and tools OCI provides.
What is a VLA?
VLAs are formal associations of lawyers with backgrounds in issues that affect artists directly. They exist in major metropolitan areas across the country including NYC, Kansas City, Minneapolis, and Denver, just to name a few. They come in lots of different shapes and sizes, but are commonly bound by an ethos of supporting working artists and creatives with access to pro-bono legal services.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The role of OCI’s VLA-NE is essentially that of a match-maker: to pair potential clients with the best volunteer lawyer for the job. We are not legal experts or lawyers ourselves, so we rely on volunteer lawyers (like you!) to provide those services.
After a potential client fills out the intake form, we begin the process of ensuring that both the potential client and their case are eligible for pro-bono services. Once confirmed, we send that information out to our network of lawyers. When a volunteer professional agrees to take the case, OCI’s VLA-NE will facilitate an introduction between the client and that volunteer professional.
Placement with a professional typically takes between two to three weeks. You are not obligated to take every case offered to you, but once you take on a case they should be treated the same as any paying client.
What are the volunteer opportunities?
OCI's VLA-NE has three main components: A lawyer referral/match-making service, public programs for the general public on different arts-related legal matters, and free legal guides or resource publications. Programmatically, OCI already offers a full suite of professional development opportunities like Working Artist Wednesday and Artist INC. We also have a digital library of arts-related guides available to anyone. For the time being, we have committed to 4 public program seminars per year, but those will likely increase as need, interest, and the VLA-NE itself grows. As for publications, those will be handled, frankly, as time allows.
If your schedule is particularly busy but you are interested in volunteering, publications and public programs offer a lower time commitment option! That interest can be indicated on the intake form.
What do I need in order to volunteer?
OCI does not provide malpractice insurance. You will need to provide that yourself or through your firm. Through the intake process, you will be asked to verify that coverage, and keep us updated annually. Besides that, you just need to be licensed in Nebraska, and be dedicated to supporting the arts in Nebraska.
WHAT KIND OF ASSISTANCE IS AVAILABLE?
It’s important to understand that VLA-NE services are only available for issues or problems that are directly related to the arts and/or an artist's creative practice. Common issues might be contract review, contract creation, copyright issues, fair use concerns, real estate disputes over studio space, etc. Anything that does not directly relate to the arts or an active arts practice is ineligible for pro-bono services.
Case areas may include: Bankruptcy, Collections, Contract, Copyright, Corporate, Entertainment, First Amendment, Insurance, Labor/Employment, Landlord/Tenant, Libel/Privacy, Real Estate, Tax, Trusts/Estates, and Worker’s Compensation.
WHO CAN USE THESE SERVICES?
While these services are designed for working artists, anyone with an arts-related issue residing in Nebraska can apply.
Due to the limitations of the law firms and lawyers we work with, we must institute an income cap on eligibility. Based on last year’s tax return, the client's income cannot exceed $30,150 (250% of the Federal Poverty Limit). For each dependent (spouse, child, etc.), the client receives an additional deduction of $4180.
The client will be asked to provide the top sheet of their tax return to verify.
WHAT IF I HAVE MORE QUESTIONS?
No Problem. Feel free to email Executive Director Andrew Saladino at Andrew@omahacreativeinstitute.org with any questions.