TrustLaw FAQs for Lawyers
01. Who can apply to join TrustLaw?
In order to access pro bono projects, your organisation will first need to become a member of TrustLaw. You can access our online application form and eligibility criteria here. TrustLaw membership is free.
Any law firm, in-house legal team or legal professional body can apply to become a member of TrustLaw. Individual lawyers who are not part of a law firm are welcome to apply but should be able to arrange their own professional indemnity insurance for pro bono work.
Lawyers who take on pro bono work through TrustLaw should be in a position to provide legal services free of charge. They should be duly qualified and licensed to provide the relevant advice, and in good standing with the relevant bar or law society. In some circumstances, we may request evidence of this, such as a copy of your practising certificate or a reference letter.
02. I’m a trainee lawyer/paralegal and not yet qualified – can I do pro bono work?
Trainee lawyers, paralegals or lawyers who need to complete a certain number of pro bono hours for purposes of qualifying in a particular jurisdiction are welcome to work on projects if they are supervised by an appropriately qualified and licensed lawyer and if the work is approved by that lawyer.
03. Does TrustLaw offer insurance?
No. TrustLaw does not offer professional indemnity insurance independently but we make a concerted effort to partner in-house lawyers with law firms. Many firms are happy to extend their insurance coverage to in-house legal teams on a project-by-project basis, or on a long-term basis as part of an ongoing pro bono partnership. Ultimately, you are responsible for acquiring appropriate professional indemnity insurance to cover any legal advice to the extent it is required in a particular jurisdiction.
TrustLaw account issues
04. I can’t log in. What do I do if I have forgotten my user name and/or password, or if I receive an error message?
Your user name is the email address that you first used to register with TrustLaw. If you have forgotten your password, just click the ‘Forgot password’ button on the TrustLaw log in page. A temporary password will be emailed to you. If you don’ receive this, please check your Spam folder.
If you still experience problems logging in, or if you receive an error message, please try changing your internet browser. If that does not work, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a screenshot of the error (if applicable), noting which browser you are using.
05. I didn’t receive the weekly email of pro bono opportunities. What should I do?
The weekly email is triggered through an automated system which can sometimes be re-directed to your Spam folder so please check that first. It may also be the case that servers at your organisation have blocked the email and this could be fixed by asking your tech team to white-list our email address. In the meantime, if you would like to see the email or to submit an offer of legal assistance, please email us at email@example.com.
06. How do I get access to my organisation’s TrustLaw account?
If one of your colleagues already has access, they can add you to the account using the steps below. Alternatively, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can set you up on the system from our side. You will receive an email with login details, asking you to create a password. Please check with your firm’s pro bono coordinator before requesting access, as firms have differing policies on how they facilitate pro bono support.
07. How do I add contacts to my organisation’s TrustLaw account?
If you have colleagues you’d like to add to your account, you can use the “Invite Colleagues” tab which appears at the top of your screen once you have logged in. This will send your colleague an automatic email from our system, and they can then set up log in details. Once this process is complete, your colleague will have their own unique set of log in details to the organisation’s Trustlaw account, and can submit offers of assistance on behalf of your organisation.
08. What types of pro bono projects do you offer?
We offer both advisory and research pro bono projects.
Lawyers can advise international and local NGOs and social enterprises on their day-to-day legal needs including: establishing new legal entities, drafting employment contracts, giving intellectual property advice, and drafting corporate and commercial agreements.
You can also work on larger, comparative research programmes that focus on social or policy issues. Lawyers can carry out in-depth analyses of laws or draft guides to the laws on social issues such as social innovation, human trafficking, domestic violence, or reproductive health, in multiple jurisdictions. The research is then used by organisations to advocate for changes to legislation or to run ground-breaking campaigns. Here are some examples.
09. Are there any issues you don’t help with?
Yes. In general, you will not see projects involving the following:
• Individual immigration cases (e.g. visa applications). We do, however, support projects that involve immigration legal research or the development of guides on broader topics such as refugee rights or restrictions on travel.
• Work for individuals e.g. the senior manager wants to know what employment benefits he is entitled to.
• Ongoing legal advice or multiple legal issues. Clients can post a maximum of 3 at any one time. Once one of the projects is connected, they can post another request for assistance. Sometimes multiple legal issues can be included in one project, if the issues are linked (e.g. drafting a commercial contract and corporate structuring advice).
• Advocacy on behalf of organisations or individuals.
• Requests for pro bono assistance on behalf of a third party, unless otherwise agreed with our team. The organisation requesting the assistance should be a client that has been vetted by TrustLaw.
• Administrative/tax queries that aren’t related to a legal issue/question.
• Business decisions (For example: Which country should I set up my company in?)
10. Can I work on a project anonymously?
Yes, your work on a particular project can be kept confidential. When we publish legal research, we encourage firms to include their logos on the final product and to acknowledge the pro bono work of their lawyers. However, we appreciate that this may not always be appropriate in some circumstances.
11. Can I work on a project where the client is looking for legal assistance in another country?
In general, we require lawyers to be qualified in the jurisdiction where the legal advice is sought. However, if the project involves research which could be desk-based, using legal databases, this may not be necessary. Please indicate your interest in the project and we will come back to you.
Submitting an offer for assistance
12. How do I submit an offer of assistance?
Log in to your TrustLaw account using your email address and password. Scroll down to the project you would like to assist with and click “View” to see more details. Click “Respond” to submit an offer. Complete the short form with the relevant details (jurisdiction you can work on, your relevant experience etc) and then click “Submit”.
If you do not yet have login details to your organisation’s TrustLaw account, please follow the steps in the section above (‘How do I get access to my organisation’s TrustLaw account?’).
Once the response deadline for the project has passed, all offers of assistance are sent to the client. The client will choose which law firm or legal team they want to work with and we will then email you to let you know whether you have been successful or not. If you have been successful, we will introduce you to the client by email and you can then set up a call with them to start the work.
TrustLaw will check in with you from time to time to ensure the legal project is progressing and to provide support if required. When the work has been completed, we will ask for feedback on how the project went and what you thought of the TrustLaw service. We will also ask the NGO for feedback and share that with you where appropriate.
13. How long do I have to submit an offer?
You should submit an offer via your account within one week of the date the project is posted. New projects will be marked as “NEW” in our weekly email which is sent to you every Monday. The response deadline for NEW projects will typically be the Friday of that same week. Projects will remain posted for up to three months if no offers are received. When you click on a project, “Response deadline” is the date by which you should send through your offer.
Projects that are marked with “On receipt” are already past their response deadline, so your offer of assistance will be sent over to the client as soon as it is received.
For larger research programmes, the response deadline is two weeks.
14. I have to run conflict checks / get approval from my pro bono committee – should I submit an offer now or wait until I get approval?
All offers are subject to conflict checks and any other internal approvals you may need, so you can submit an offer right away. It’s no problem if you need to withdraw later.
15. What should I include in my offer, or how can I improve it so that the NGO chooses to work with me?
There is no need to submit a very detailed offer: a few sentences will suffice. For example, your offer could include the biographies of the lawyers who will work on the project, as well as a paragraph on your firm’s pro bono practice and achievements. NGOs also appreciate information on whether the lawyer has previously done similar work. A personal touch always helps, as does a demonstrated interest in an NGO’s area of work.
16. How much time do I have to complete the work?
The deadline for the work to be completed will appear in the project description under: “Project Deadlines/Key Dates”. Most of the deadlines for our projects are flexible and can be discussed with the client before work commences. We speak to every client about the timing of the work and try to include key dates where possible.
17. Can I work on part of a project only?
Yes. Please indicate which part you can assist with in your offer. You do not have to assist with every country that is listed either – you can choose to do the work for one country only.
18. What should I do if the client asks me to work on a legal issue that wasn’t included in the original project description?
We tell all NGOs that lawyers who offer to assist with a project will perform the work specifically described in the project description and are not expected to do work that falls outside the scope of the project. Please let us know if this happens and we will ask the client to submit a new request for legal assistance online.
19. Can I keep working with the NGO after the project is complete?
Yes. We encourage lawyers to develop strong relationships with NGOs, however, there is no obligation to continue working for them. We advise NGOs to submit any new requests for assistance online so that TrustLaw lawyers can review, scope and package their legal needs into neat, discrete projects. This will save you time and ensures that you receive quality pro bono work, in a practice area suited to your skills.
20. What should I do if the work is more complex or more time-consuming than I thought and I can no longer assist with all or some of the work?
Please let us know if you can no longer assist or are unable to meet the client’s deadline. We are available to help with managing the client’s expectations and can re-post the project and seek assistance elsewhere if necessary.
21. The client is being unresponsive – what should I do?
Please get in touch and let us know. We will resolve any issues that may arise. Our Terms and Conditions require our members to be responsive in all their dealings with lawyers.
22. Can I apply for a TrustLaw Award?
The TrustLaw Awards are an annual ceremony to celebrate the groundbreaking pro bono projects undertaken by legal teams with NGOs and social enterprises around the world. The winners of the Awards are determined internally, by the TrustLaw team – there is no application. We consider all TrustLaw pro bono projects that have been completed by members, as well as their interactions with TrustLaw in general.
NGOs are able to nominate lawyers for our Lawyer of The Year Award which recognizes an individual lawyer or team of lawyers who have gone above and beyond in providing exceptional pro bono support.
23. Which NGOs do you support?
A list of our NGO and social enterprise clients and Referral Partners is available on our website. This only includes organisations who have agreed for their names to be mentioned publically.
24. Do you vet the organisations?
Yes. All TrustLaw members must satisfy our eligibility criteria and are vetted by the TrustLaw team before joining the network. All TrustLaw members must have a clear social mission that states: who they aim to help; how they plan to do it; the impact they are trying to achieve; and how they will measure this impact. TrustLaw’s eligibility criteria are illustrative of those we encourage to join our network. The criteria are broad to enable a variety of organisations to apply. Additional guidance is as follows:
• Social: Organisations that seek to have a positive impact on the social fabric of the community and well-being of individuals and families. This may include organisations that support disadvantaged populations, uphold human rights and address discrimination.
• Humanitarian: Organisations responding to humanitarian emergencies such as natural and man-made disasters with a primary objective of saving lives, alleviating suffering and maintaining human dignity.
• Environmental: Organisations that seek to protect, analyse or monitor endangered species or the environment against misuse or degradation.
We understand that you may have your own set of vetting criteria, as pro bono policies and due diligence procedures differ from firm to firm. Our vetting process does not aim to replace your standard procedures and any requirements you may have for pro bono clients to sign engagement letters.
25. Why do you support for-profit social enterprises?
We define a social enterprise as a business that trades for a social, humanitarian or environmental purpose and reinvests more than half its profits back into its social mission. The business will have a clear social mission that states: who it aims to help; how it plans to do it; the impact it is trying to achieve; and how it will measure its impact. TrustLaw supports social enterprises that are established as not-for-profit or for-profit organisations.
For-profit social enterprises must demonstrate that they reinvest most of their profits to support their social mission and/or their business operations and/or to support a third party non-profit. They need to provide reasonable, documented evidence, such as governing documents, or other publicly available information, that sets out this commitment. We collect this information along with evidence of registration, social impact and financial sustainability, at the time of application. We re-assess for-profit social enterprise members every two years to ensure that they continue to satisfy our membership eligibility criteria.
We support social enterprises with pro bono legal assistance because the money they save on lawyers’ fees will instead be spent on achieving their social mission and sustaining their business. Even though social enterprises make a profit, that profit is used to solve a pressing social problem rather than to enrich owners or shareholders. Making profits primarily through trading means social enterprises can be self-sustaining, without having to rely entirely on donations and grants.