June 06, 2013

How to Get Free or Affordable Legal Help for Your Music Project

So you've created your own opportunity by starting a business yourself and things are going great. So great that it's getting serious and you've decided you need a little legal help. Whether you need an independent contractor agreement, want to know what type of business entity is right for you, or you just have some legal questions, obtaining the help of an attorney can be pretty expensive. What's an aspiring music industry professional to do?

Luckily, there are some great organizations out there to assist out go-getters like yourselves who don't have the resources to pay for legal help:

Lawyers for the Arts

Most of the major cities in the United States have at least one pro bono organization geared specifically toward artists. New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and New Orleans all have "Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts" programs, Chicago has the Lawyers for the Creative Arts, Houston boasts the Texas Accountants & Lawyers for the Arts, and San Francisco is the home of the California Lawyers for the Arts. Beyond offering free or discounted legal services, many of these organizations also host workshops and other events targeted toward educating artists on the basics of copyrights, trademarks, and business entities.

Online Media Legal Network

OMLN is housed at Harvard University, but counts among its member lawyers all over the United States. It serves online publishers and digital media creators. The services provided by OMLN attorneys include business entity formation, licensing, employment and freelancer agreements, pre-publication review of content, and representation in litigation.

Law School Clinics

If there's a law school in your area, check to see what types of clinics its has. Clinics are where law students can get real world experience under the supervision of an attorney, and their services are usually provided for free if you are accepted as a client.

Some law school clinics that might be able to help you with your project include:

Fordham University Intellectual Property and Information Law Clinic (New York, NY) - Assists a wide range of clients, including musicians, performing artists, poets, non-profit organizations, small business, and others interested in protecting their creativity and personal information.

Brooklyn Law Incubator & Policy Clinic (Brooklyn, NY) - Aids companies in the technology, Internet, communications, and new media space, with a focus on corporate and intellectual property law.

University of Pennsylvania Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic (Philadelphia, PA) - Drafts needed agreements and counsels entrepreneurs and small businesses on entity formation, real estate development, and intellectual property issues.

Northwestern Law Entrepreneurship Law Center (Chicago, IL) - Helps start-ups with their corporate, intellectual property, and contract matters.

University of Washington School of Law Entrepreneurship Law Clinic (Seattle, WA) - Teams up law and business students with attorneys and business advisors to provide legal and business counseling to start-ups.

University of San Francisco Internet and Intellectual Property Justice Clinic (San Francisco, CA) - Provides advice on intellectual property law issues and represents parties in copyright and trademark disputes.

University of San Diego School of Law Entrepreneurship Clinic (San Diego, CA) - Advises on legal matters relating to starting a business and assists in drafting and filing the necessary documents.

Good luck!

- Lauren
lauren@internlikearockstar.com | Twitter: @Musicn3rd