Legal and Accounting Assistance

Our volunteers help photographers, painters, poets, musicians, playwrights, graphic artists, dancers, crafts groups, filmmakers, theatre companies, orchestras, neighborhood arts councils and others pursuing artistic endeavors.  Problems that are not considered arts-related include traffic violations, personal injury, criminal and family law matters.

Not an artist or with an arts organization? Find legal service providers here.

Individual Artists

To receive free assistance, you must be a Missouri or Southwestern Illinois artist with an arts-related problem and meet our income guidelines. Individual artists (all disciplines) with incomes less than $27,225 per year (+$9,550 for each additional member of the household) qualify for free assistance. This represents 250% of the federal poverty guidelines and is the highest allowable income for attorney pro bono services. Your application can be filled out online, but must be submitted with your check by mail.

If you are ineligible for free services because your income exceeds our guidelines, we will provide names of lawyers and/or accountants who accept fee-generating clients. Simply complete a referral request form.

Arts Organizations

To receive free assistance, you must represent a Missouri or Southwestern Illinois arts organization with an arts-related problem and meet our operating budget guidelines. Nonprofit organizations with annual budgets under $500,000 qualify. Applications can be filled out online, but must be submitted with your check by mail.

New organizations requesting assistance with incorporation and applying for tax-exempt status should request a copy of our Nonprofit Incorporation Workbook and the accompanying worksheets, which must be completed before meeting with a volunteer. Applications can be filled out online, but must be submitted with your check by mail.

Our Sleep Better Nonprofit Financial Check-Up program is designed especially for nonprofit arts organizations with annual operating budgets of $100,000 to $500,000. The goal of this new service, made possbile by a grant from the Trio Foundation, is to help mid-sized organizations avoid financial stress, successfully manage their finances and satisfy the requirements of the boards, funders and the government regulators who oversee their activities.

Not an audit, review or compilation, this service is designed to strengthen arts organizations by providing expert external advice. A CPA and a nonprofit CFO will examine the organization’s financial systems and operations and address needed changes. Our checklists address financial policies, the role of the treasurer, budgeting, financial statements, internal controls, routine bookkeeping and accounting procedures, tax compliance, IRS 990 and financial sustainability. The check-up also includes a QuickBooks self-assessment tool, focusing on professional development needs. A second self-assessment tool, designed for board members and staff, addresses warning signs of financial health and stress. Following the assessment, a written report will be used to develop a customized action plan focusing on solutions that are most feasible and likely to be effective.

The $250 administrative fee covers:
• A preliminary meeting with VLAA staff
• A two-hour consultation with the pro bono CPA-CFO team
• A confidential report outlining findings and specific recommendations
• A meeting to discuss the report and to develop next steps
• Assistance with customizing our sample accounting policies and procedures manual
• Quarterly follow-ups to determine whether the organization has implemented the recommended financial management practices
• Action-plan-related referrals to VLAA volunteers

Interested organizations should complete an application form.

Sleep Better Financial Check-up does not constitute services performed in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards or attestation standards established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants; therefore, no assurance or opinion will be given.

Litigation
St. Louis Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts does not ask its volunteers to pursue costly and time-consuming litigation. Volunteers do try to negotiate solutions to problems on their clients’ behalf, advise clients how to take their case to small claims court, explain how the dispute could be resolved through mediation or arbitration, and/or evaluate damage claims and assess the likelihood of success or failure of cases should a lawsuit be filed.

When they complete their application for pro bono assistance, clients agree that in the event that litigation, arbitration or similar proceedings become necessary, they will not oppose their volunteers’ decision (or formal motion before a tribunal) to withdraw from representation. Should the volunteer agree to represent a client in court or in appeal proceedings, we will no longer participate in the disposition of the case.

"I was feeling pretty helpless because I had this possible contract with a job that was pretty important to me and I had no idea how I was going to pay a lawyer."
Brad Podowski, graphic designer

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