Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

General

Q: What types of clients are served through OMLN?

A: OMLN is dedicated to serving the legal needs of online journalism ventures and other online publishers and media creators. OMLN staff members screen prospective clients in order to assess their suitability for inclusion in the network. The following non-exhaustive criteria are used as part of the screening process:

  • Viability. We believe that limited resources can have the greatest impact when focused on ventures that are economically viable and/or sustainable over time.
  • Adherence to journalistic standards. We seek to support ventures that practice the journalistic standards of truth, fairness, and transparency.
  • Innovation. We're looking for ventures that are at the forefront of efforts to harness the Internet to revolutionize journalism and fill unmet market needs.
  • Independence. The network will primarily support media ventures that are independent of the traditional media or corporate ownership.
  • Original reporting. Preference will be given to ventures that create their own original reporting, or that use traditional news sources in new and innovative ways.
  • Public interest. Priority will be given to ventures that serve the public interest, including those that fill important information needs or foster a sense of community.

None of these factors is determinative, and the ultimate decision as to whether a potential client will be accepted as a client of the network is at the sole discretion of OMLN staff.

Q: Who qualifies for pro bono assistance?

A: OMLN makes referrals for pro bono services in light of the guidance set forth in the American Bar Association's Model Rule 6.1.  Specifically, pro bono referrals are available to applicants whose publishing activities qualify them for inclusion in the network (see above) for whom "the payment of standard legal fees would significantly deplete the [applicant's] economic resources or would be otherwise inappropriate."  Towards this end, we have adopted the following financial guidelines:

  • Individual (single): Pro bono referrals are available to unmarried individuals with personal adjusted gross income of $45,000 or less, with a $2,500 increase in income allowed for each dependent.
  • Individual (married): Pro bono referrals are available to married individuals with household adjusted gross income of $65,000 or less, with a $2,500 increase in income allowed for each (non-spousal) dependent.
  • Nonprofit organization: Pro bono referrals are available to nonprofit organizations with an annual operating budget of $250,000 or less and for whom the payment of standard legal fees would significantly deplete the organization’s resources.
  • For-profit organization: Pro bono referrals are available to for-profit organizations with annual gross revenue of $75,000 or less and for whom the payment of standard legal fees would significantly deplete the organization’s resources.

Q: Does OMLN provide reduced-fee referrals?

A: Yes. OMLN recommends reduced-fee treatment for online publishers whose work is in the public interest, if they have income, funding, or revenue slightly above the thresholds listed above and hiring a lawyer at ordinary market rates would be a significant burden.

OMLN staff evaluate applicants on a case-by-case basis to determine whether hiring a lawyer at market rates would be a significant burden and whether their work is in the public interest.  When a reduced-fee recommendation is made, network lawyers may negotiate a reduced-fee arrangement that is acceptable to both parties or charge their ordinary rates if they do not offer reduced-fee services. OMLN will not be a party to this agreement.

Q: Does OMLN provide full-fee referrals?

A: Yes. Online publishers who don't qualify for pro bono or reduced-fee services can request referrals to network lawyers for full-fee services. In full-fee referrals, network lawyers may charge their ordinary rates or negotiate another arrangement that is acceptable to both parties. OMLN will not be a party to this agreement.

Q: What types of legal work and cases will OMLN accept?

A: Network clients have sought legal assistance on a diverse range of topics, including business formation and governance, copyright licensing and fair use, employment and freelancer agreements, pre-publication review of content, and representation in litigation. The following list provides examples of some of the types of legal work and cases that are handled through the network:

Litigation-oriented matters may include:

  • Responding to cease-and-desist letters claiming that articles, blog posts, or user comments are defamatory.
  • Filing pleadings and motions in defamation, invasion of privacy, copyright, and trademark cases involving First Amendment or fair use issues. Other subject areas include trade secrets, rights of publicity, false advertising, intrusion, conversion, trespass, and wiretapping violations.
  • Filing motions to dismiss or for summary judgment based on section 512 of the DMCA and section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in cases involving user-generated content.
  • Filing motions to quash subpoenas seeking IP addresses or other identifying information for bloggers, website operators, and user comments.
  • Filing motions to quash subpoenas seeking the identity of confidential sources or the production of newsgathering materials.
  • Handling discovery and representing clients at trial.

Newsgathering matters may include:

  • Preparing and submitting open records requests to government agencies (e.g., requests under FOIA and state open records laws).
  • Counseling and litigation involving open records and open meetings laws, as well as access to court proceedings and documents.
  • Advising clients on compliance with state and federal laws prohibiting wiretapping, eavesdropping, trespassing and invasion of privacy.
  • Counseling and assistance in acquiring press credentials.

Transactional and corporate assistance may include:

  • Preparing and filing documents related to the formation of a corporation, LLC, or non-profit organization under state law.
  • Preparing filings for obtaining nonprofit, tax-exempt status under federal and state law.
  • Drafting investment, partnership, operating, or shareholder agreements, including provisions related to the ownership of intellectual property rights.
  • Advising clients on how to structure equity ownership in a for-profit corporation.
  • Preparing and revising website Terms of Use and Privacy Policies.
  • Drafting and assisting with the implementation of a DMCA policy, including registering an agent with the U.S. Copyright Office.
  • Negotiating and drafting freelancer, independent contractor and joint venture agreements.
  • Negotiating and drafting intellectual property license and assignment agreements.
  • Negotiating and drafting software and other vendor agreements.

General legal counseling and advice may include:

  • Conducting trademark clearance searches for project names and other logos, symbols, and taglines.
  • Assisting with the state and federal registration of trademarks, including project names and other logos, symbols, and taglines.
  • Counseling clients on Creative Commons and other copyright licenses, both as to their own works and their use of third-party works.
  • Counseling clients on the contours of copyright fair use, including advice on news aggregation and the use of third-party content.
  • Counseling clients on the collection, screening, editing, and publication of user-generated content.
  • Conducting pre-publication review of materials for defamation, privacy, and other publication torts.
  • Advising clients on state and federal advertising, sweepstakes and contest laws.
  • Assisting clients with the preparation and filing of copyright applications for the registration of online works.

Q: What does it cost to participate in the network? 

A: There is no cost to participate in OMLN, either as an attorney or as a client. Running the network is both staff and resource intensive, however. If you find the services we provide to be beneficial, we encourage you to make an individual or law firm donation to help defray the costs of running the network. The success of the network will depend upon your support and financial assistance.

The donor recognition levels are listed below, but feel free to donate as much as you'd like:

Individual
Supporter < $100
Patron $200
Benefactor $400
Sustainer $750
Advocates' Circle $1000+
Organizations with 2-99 Attorneys
Supporter < $250
Patron $500
Benefactor $1000
Sustainer $2500
Advocates' Circle $5000+
Organizations with 100+ Attorneys
Supporter < $500
Patron $1000
Benefactor $2500
Sustainer $5000
Advocates' Circle $10000+

Q: How do cases get assigned to network lawyers?

A: OMLN staff members pre-screen prospective clients and prepare anonymous client/matter summaries so that network lawyers can quickly decide whether they are interested in taking on a question, case, or transaction. These summaries are sent out to OMLN member lawyers via a biweekly email newsletter and are available at any time on the password-protected OMLN website, where members can search and filter client/case information based on, among other things, client location, type of assistance needed, and legal expertise required.

After network lawyers flag a matter they are interested in, OMLN staff make a determination about the appropriateness of the match. If the match is appropriate, the matter is placed under “review” for 7 days, during which time the lawyer is provided with the client's contact information in order to carry out a conflicts check and to communicate with the client so that both lawyer and client can decide if they want to work together. (A shorter time frame may be required when a client’s need is urgent.) If the matter clears the conflicts check and the lawyer and client wish to work together, OMLN turns the matter over to the lawyer and steps out of the relationship.  If for any reason a prospective match does not work out, the client's matter is again made available on the network for other lawyers to request.

For Lawyers      ^top^

Q: I am a non-U.S. lawyer, will I be able to join the network?

A. Not at this time. Only lawyers who are admitted to practice law in the United States can currently join the network.  Depending on future funding, we would like to expand the network internationally, but we are not yet able to do so.

Q: Is there a minimum number of cases a member must take?

A: No. There is no minimum number of cases or matters that members are required to handle.

Q: Is there a maximum number of cases a member can take?

A: No. There is no ceiling on the number of cases members may take, so long as they can act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing the client.

Q: Can I work with a particular client on more than one matter?

A: Yes.  For clients that have more than one matter available through the network, the client description contains a link to all other available matters.  As many network clients are new startups, we encourage members to develop ongoing relationships with them and will give preference when assigning new matters to those members that have previously worked with the client or that express an interest in serving as the client's outside general counsel.

Q: Do I have to take cases pro bono?

A: No. The network includes an array of cases, some pro bono, some reduced-fee, and some full-fee. Members have no obligation to take pro bono cases. But, if you want to take a case or matter involving a client who qualifies for pro bono services under our guidelines, we ask that you represent that client without charge.

Q: If I take a case pro bono, will I be responsible for filing fees, court costs, discovery expenses, or other out-of-pocket expenses?

A: No. The client will be responsible for paying any filing fees, court costs, discovery expenses, or other out-of-pocket expenses, unless a member chooses to negotiate an alternative arrangement.

Q: Can my law firm participate in OMLN?

A: Absolutely. Law firms that have the requisite expertise can join the network and request cases for assignment.  However, because we identify members – and control access to the OMLN website – through each member’s unique email address, a lawyer or administrator from the firm will need to sign up as the firm’s representative. Other lawyers in the firm who wish to have access to the OMLN website should create their own accounts, which will be associated with the law firm’s account.

Q: My firm has a pro bono coordinator, will he/she be able to oversee members from the firm and the assignment of cases?

A. Yes. Through the OMLN website, pro bono coordinators are able to manage firm members, view summary reports of all matters assigned to firm members, and oversee the assignment of new matters to firm members.  If you are a pro bono coordinator and have specific suggestions for how we can make your job easier, please let us know.

Q: I would like to request that OMLN not publicize my participation in the network. How do I opt-out?

A: You can opt-out of public disclosure of your participation in the network by indicating this preference at the bottom of your membership application or by signing in to your account on the OMLN website. On your Account tab under "Communications," click the box next to "Do not disclose my participation publicly."

Q: Can anyone join?

A: No. Law firms and individual lawyers who wish to participate must have demonstrated expertise in the area(s) of law in which they desire to take on clients. Applicants who have been practicing law for less than five years may be asked to demonstrate their expertise in the relevant areas, or show that they have access to lawyers with the relevant expertise. An applicant who has recently graduated from law school, but is associated with a more experienced attorney or a law firm, is more likely to be accepted as a member than a solo practitioner of similar experience.

Q. How do I join?

A. To join the network, simply download this membership application or contact Staff [at] OMLN.  Law firms that wish to join should submit a law firm application.

For Pro Bono Coordinators    ^top^

Q: I am a pro bono coordinator, will I be able to oversee members from the firm and the assignment of cases?

A: Yes. Pro bono coordinators (or another designated firm representative) are given special accounts on the OMLN website that allow them to view summary reports of all matters assigned to firm members and oversee the assignment of new matters.  In addition, pro bono coordinators receive notifications whenever a member of their firm requests an assignment and can reject any such requests.  

Q: If individual attorneys at my firm already have OMLN accounts, do I have to sign up for a firm account?

A: No. While we expect that most firms may want to create both individual and firm accounts, a firm is not required to create a firm account. The primary purpose for creating a firm account is to enable the pro bono coordinator or other designated individual to monitor and administer participation in OMLN by the firm’s attorneys.

Q: If my law firm has a firm account, do our attorneys need to sign up for individual accounts?

A: We strongly encourage pro bono coordinators to have individual attorneys to create their own accounts. Some firms find it more manageable to maintain both a firm account and individual accounts for those attorneys who plan to work on OMLN matters. This makes it easier for the firm manager and OMLN staff to monitor matters that are assigned to individual members, and it reduces confusion about who at the firm is actually working with a specific client. Individual accounts also make it easier for us to gauge the experience level of an attorney interested in handing a particular matter, so that we can help you determine whether there is a proper fit based upon the complexity of the matter.

Q: My firm has multiple offices, and I would like for each office to have its own account.  Is that possible?

A: Yes. A firm can sign up for multiple accounts, for example Law Firm LLC (Washington) and Law Firm LLC (Boston). Each account will need to be separately managed and maintained, however. Our system does not support the creation of a "master" firm account.

Q. I'd like to be able to do "X", is that possible? 

A. We will do everything we can to make "X" possible.  If you are a pro bono coordinator and have specific suggestions for how we can make your job easier, please let us know.

Q: Does my firm have to take cases pro bono?

A: No. The network handles an array of cases, some pro bono, some reduced-fee, and some full-fee. Members have no obligation to take pro bono cases. But, if a lawyer in your firm wants to take a case or matter involving a client who qualifies for pro bono services, we ask that the lawyer represent that client without charge.

Q: My firm would prefer that OMLN not publicize its participation in the network. How do I opt-out?

A: You can opt-out of public disclosure of your firm's participation in the network by indicating this preference at the bottom of your law firm application or by signing in to your account on the OMLN website. On your firm's Account tab under "Communications," click the box next to "Do not disclose my firm's participation publicly."

Q: How do I sign up as my law firm's pro bono coordinator?

A: You will need to submit a law firm application and identify yourself as the firm's representative.  Because we identify members – and control access to the OMLN website – through each member’s unique email address, other lawyers in the firm who wish to have access to the OMLN website should create their own accounts, which will be associated with the law firm’s account.  To join the network, simply download a law firm application or contact Staff [at] OMLN.

Q: I am the director of a law school clinic, can my clinic sign up to receive cases?

A: Of course.  We have more than a dozen law clinics in the network and are eager to have more join.  You will need to submit a law school clinic application and identify yourself as the clinic's representative.  Because we identify members – and control access to the OMLN website – through each member’s unique email address, other lawyers in the clinic who wish to have access to the OMLN website should create their own accounts, which will be associated with the clinic’s account.  To join the network, simply download a law school clinic application or contact Staff [at] OMLN.

For Clients     ^top^

Q: How do I request legal assistance?

A: If you would like to request legal assistance, please download an Intake Questionnaire and submit it to us via email.  Please note that we do not accept requests for legal assistance via the telephone or fax.  If you encounter technical problems submitting your questionnaire, please see our troubleshooting page for assistance.

Q: Will I automatically qualify for legal assistance?

A: No.  We receive more requests for legal assistance than we are able to handle.  OMLN staff screen all prospective clients in order to assess their suitability for inclusion in the network.  You can review our screening criteria here.

Q: Do you provide legal assistance to clients based outside the United States?

A. Normally, no.  In certain limited situations, we might be able to assist foreign-based entities that conduct operations within the United States and have questions relating to U.S. law.   Depending on future funding, we would like to expand the network's services for foreign clients, but we are not yet able to do so.

Q: How long will it take to refer my matter to a lawyer?

A: OMLN endeavors to promptly refer you to a lawyer, but the process normally takes at least 3-4 weeks and sometimes as long as three months. For those clients that require immediate assistance, we will work with you to find an attorney as soon as possible.

Q: Am I guaranteed to obtain legal representation?

A: No. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to refer you to an outside attorney or law school clinic.

Q: Do I have to use the lawyer referred to me by OMLN?

A: No. You are under no obligation to retain the attorney or attorneys referred to you by OMLN, and you are free to seek legal assistance outside of our network or request another match if you are unhappy with the first one.  We do ask that you advise us if you find an attorney on your own and no longer need us to locate one for you.

Q: What should I do if I don't like the lawyer that has been referred to me by OMLN?

A: If you feel that the attorney that has been referred to you by OMLN is not a good match for your needs, please contact OMLN staff. We will attempt to refer you to a new attorney.