Free legal assistance

We connect the world's leading legal teams to provide free legal assistance to organisations working for social and environmental change.

Through TrustLaw, over 100,000 lawyers offer their time and knowledge to help organisations achieve their social mission for free. This means NGOs and social enterprises can focus on their impact instead of spending vital resources on legal support.

TrustLaw works with over 550 legal teams across 170 countries that generously support the legal requests of TrustLaw NGO and social enterprise members for free.

Read the FAQs and download the free legal assistance brochure.


How it works

Legal teams, NGOs and social enterprises can join TrustLaw for free. Once members, NGOs and social enterprises can request free legal support, and lawyers can volunteer to work on exciting pro bono projects.


Each week, lawyers will receive an email listing pro bono projects available across the global network. Lawyers can submit an offer of interest for a project, and the NGO or social enterprise client will choose which legal team to work with. Selecting projects to support is entirely at the discretion of the lawyer.

NGOs & social enterprises

Post a request for free legal assistance on TrustLaw’s online portal and then speak with TrustLaw about your legal needs. Once finalised, TrustLaw legal members will be able to see your legal request.

Lawyers in the network will have two weeks to volunteer to help. Then TrustLaw will send the offers of support to the NGO or social enterprise to select which legal team they would like to work with. If TrustLaw hasn’t found help by the end of the two-week period, we'll keep looking until we’ve found free legal assistance.

Join TrustLaw

Types of legal support

The pro bono projects TrustLaw supports range from operational legal issues for NGOs and social enterprises, including general commercial, intellectual property and employment matters, to international cross-border legal research.

Examples include:
  • Advocacy: Research on laws in multiple countries, comparing best (and worst) practices.
  • Your staff: Employment and volunteer agreements
  • Structuring: Helping to select the right legal entity for your NGO or social enterprise.
  • Funding: Partnership or funding agreements.
  • Protecting your brand and ideas: Trademark registration, copyright, patents and licensing.

TrustLaw members

TrustLaw boasts more than 3,000 members across the world. The membership includes legal teams, referral partners, NGOs and social enterprises.

  • Referral partners
    To help reach more NGOs and social enterprises we partner with leading organisations that support, fund or award NGOs and social enterprises working towards social change. Through our partnership, we aim to support their grantees, fellows, members and award winners with free legal assistance.

    We have partnerships with grant-making organisations like The Stars Foundation, social enterprise support organisations such as Ashoka or UnLtd, and environmental groups such as the Whitely Fund for Nature. Referral partners share the same eligibility criteria as TrustLaw for supporting NGO and social enterprises. 2014 partners include:

    • W.K Kellogg Foundation
    • EMPower
    • Deloitte
    • Stars Foundation
    • Global Giving
    • Catapult
    • The global fund for Children
    • China
    • The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
    • ibexearth
    • Social Business Trust
    • Santa Clara University
  • NGOs & social enterprises
    The number of NGOs and social enterprises who are members of TrustLaw grows by the day. With a presence in over 170 countries globally, we support more than 2,000 organisations with free legal assistance. See our NGO and social enterprise membership criteria.

    The number of NGOs and social enterprises who are members of TrustLaw grows by the day. With a presence in over 170 countries globally, we support more than 2,000 organisations with free legal assistance.

    What is an NGO?

    An NGO is a non-government organisation that works to support social change. NGOs usually rely on donations to alleviate poverty, empower communities, support disadvantaged groups, advocate for rights, promote the arts or protect the environment. They can be small, working within their own community or can operate globally, they are autonomous from the government and are not-for-profit. Meet some of TrustLaw’s NGO members.

    What is a social enterprise?

    A social enterprise is a business that works towards tackling social problems. They are often commercial, which means they make a profit and sell goods to the public, however their ultimate goal is to reach their social or environmental mission. For example Thankyou is a TrustLaw social enterprise member in Australia, they sell bottled water and delicious muesli and donate all their profits to alleviate poverty. Another TrustLaw member is Nuru Energy who has introduced rechargeable lamps to villages in Rwanda, Kenya and India to prevent use of non-renewable energy sources.

Our Impact

TrustLaw has helped NGOs and social enterprises access $70 million worth of free legal assistance in 170 countries.

TrustLaw’s success is built on the generosity and commitment of the legal teams who volunteer their skills to support the NGOs and social enterprises at the frontlines of social change. By facilitating and fostering connections to free legal assistance we have made a huge impact globally.

We have supported grassroots organisations to employ their first staff members, helped vulnerable women access loans to start their first businesses and brought renewable energy lighting to slums.

Free legal assistance on these small projects has had a big impact on local communities working to overcome poverty and discrimination.

At a global scale, we have supported legal reform activities to protect the rights of millions of domestic workers, changed legislation to support victims of violence, produced guides to protect people who experience street harassment, and crafted tools to support the prosecution of trafficking offenders.

Impact stories
TrustLaw Awards

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.

Impact Award – projects that demonstrate significant, wide-ranging impact for an NGO or social enterprise, their community, and beyond.

Innovation Award – projects that feature not only a new and exciting idea or enterprise, but a legal team that used creativity in addressing the issues faced.

Collaboration Award – projects that showcase highly effective working relationships between legal teams, NGOs and social enterprises that have dramatically increased the potential impact of projects as a result.

Lawyer of the Year Award – An individual lawyer or team of lawyers who have gone above and beyond in providing exceptional pro bono support, nominated by a NGO or social enterprise.

Legal Team of the Year Award – teams that demonstrate dedication and enthusiasm in supporting pro bono clients in three categories: domestic law firm, international law firm, and in-house legal team.

The next TrustLaw Awards will be hosted in New York in 2016.

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Index of Pro Bono

The TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono is the first global survey identifying how much pro bono work is done by law firms across the world.

The Submission Period is now open for the 2016 TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono.

Launched in 2014, the TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono looks at the amount of pro bono work law firms are undertaking on a country-by-country basis and identifies global trends in the pro bono marketplace.

The 2015 Index collected data from over 140 firms, both large and small, representing 49,000 lawyers in 77 countries. In 2015 the Index showed lawyers donated two million hours of their time assisting charities, non-profits, social enterprises, and/or individuals free of charge. On average, individual lawyers were found to invest one week (43 hours) of free legal assistance across the world.

See the 2015 TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono and the results of the 2014 TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono.

TrustLaw is now collecting data to build the third TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono.

To contribute, sponsor the Index or for more information contact

The TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono illustrates that the culture of pro bono is thriving across the world, yet how pro bono is practiced varies depending on the jurisdiction, and the capacity and infrastructure a law firm has to undertake pro bono. For firms that are new to pro bono, we are often asked how to approach setting up a pro bono legal practice. Watch this helpful video for tips on how to establish a pro bono practice.

As part of the data collection for the Index, TrustLaw also collects data for the Collaborative Plan for Pro Bono in the UK. The Collaborative Plan is a profession-led initiative in the UK which sets an aspirational pro bono target and space for sector-wide collaboration.

Legal Training

TrustLaw runs a series of accredited legal training courses and events on social enterprise and impact investment. The courses focus on legal issues and trends in the growing social innovation sector, and provide lawyers with skills and knowledge to advise clients.

Through a mixture of lectures, panel discussions and interactive workshops, attendees gain an in-depth understanding of key legal issues facing the social enterprise and investment sector. This includes structuring advice for social enterprises, legal challenges for impact investors and investees, and different funding models including social impact bonds, charitable bonds and crowd-funding.

By attending a TrustLaw training you’ll meet leaders in the social innovation space, and hear from the experts shaping the sector and the investors that are backing its growth.

Training courses were held in London in 2014 and 2015, and in New York in 2015 as well. Further courses are scheduled during 2016, including in San Francisco in May. Check this space for updates.

TrustLaw Training 2014


TrustLaw Reports

TrustLaw publications are legal resources that take an in-depth look at a legal issue in a number of countries. This may be in the form of a comparative analysis of laws in different countries, or a legal landscape analysis. These guides aim to help TrustLaw members advocate for legal reform, inform policy activities or propose legal amendments.

See all reports
Trustlaw Reports

Empowering People with Disabilities

The report compares the laws governing disability and the implementation of the UNCRPD in eleven countries spanning five continents.

Read the report

TrustLaw Guides

TrustLaw has produced a number of guides in collaboration with leading law firms to support the growth of social entrepreneurship, and to help NGOs and charities across the world. These guides are a vital tool for many organisations, and demonstrate the commitment TrustLaw legal members have for strengthening the social sector.

See all guides
Trustlaw Reports

Crowdfunding for Social Ventures

Crowdfunding has become a hot buzzword - but is it just hype or a viable fundraising tool? See a practical guide for social entrepreneurs interested in using crowdfunding as a viable source of fundraising.

Read the report

Contact TrustLaw

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