Frequently Asked Questions
CLA is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to use the law to improve the quality of the Chesapeake Bay. CLA’s staff and network of volunteer lawyers provide free legal services to support the work of environmental organizations, citizens’ groups, and individuals in efforts to improve the health of the Chesapeake and its watershed. CLA’s work empowers citizens to be more effective in making their voices heard and their actions count in the fight to protect and restore the Bay.
We provide assistance to clients throughout the Bay’s 64,000-square-mile watershed, which includes parts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the entire District of Columbia.
CLA provides legal assistance to individuals and organizations working towards improving the health of the Bay and its watershed that could not otherwise afford a lawyer. Our clients include citizens, Waterkeepers, river associations, land conservation and environmental organizations, ad-hoc coalitions, homeowners associations, community groups, restoration groups, farmers, universities, and municipalities.
CLA provides any type of legal service that will help improve or protect the Bay and its watershed including both litigation and legal advice. We have assisted with lawsuits for violation of anti-pollution laws, challenges to permit renewals, drafting of legislation and administrative rules, creating tax-exempt non-profit organizations, and advice on a wide variety of other matters confronted by our organizational clients. Our work has dealt with almost every aspect of the laws that affect the Bay including pollution control, sewer and stormwater issues, construction runoff, land development, wetland and forest protection, agricultural best management practices, legislative policy, strategy development and advocacy. We also provide training to citizens groups and individuals interested in learning how to use the law to become more effective in working to clean up the Bay.
CLA receives inquiries from citizens and organizations in need of legal assistance. CLA staff gathers information and reviews merits of matters and fit with CLA’s mission to determine whether to undertake to find legal assistance for matters on a pro bono basis.
CLA seeks to place matters within its existing network of attorneys who have expressed interest in working on CLA referred matters as well as solicits assistance from attorneys and law firms not yet part of the CLA network. Once a client/attorney match has been made, CLA will then connect the two parties. If the two parties agree to work together, CLA will follow-up as necessary, including learning the final disposition of the matter.
There are no fees for CLA’s services, although our clients often make voluntary contributions to support our work.
Most of the attorneys and law firms in CLA’s network provide their services at no charge. Occasionally CLA recommends the use of attorneys who charge a nominal fee or provide their services at substantially reduced rates.
Our attorneys usually expect clients to pay for costs such as court filing fees, transcripts, extensive copying fees (such as for Freedom of Information Act or Public Information Act requests), expert witness fees, and consultant fees. These issues are usually addressed in a retainer agreement that sets forth the costs to be paid by the client.
Our volunteers include lawyers in active practice, both in the public and private sectors, and lawyers who are retired but wanting to do public interest work. They include lawyers from a wide variety of disciplines, including not only environmental law, but land use, corporate, tax, administrative, commercial, and general litigation. Whether you are in active practice or retired, or work in the public or private sectors, CLA will match your skills, interest and experience to a client group in need of your assistance. CLA also uses the services of engineers, scientists and other experts to advise on, or serve as expert witnesses in, a variety of matters.
Absolutely. Making positive, lasting changes towards restoring the health of the Bay requires attorneys with diverse backgrounds. Whether you are a litigator or a transactional attorney, work in a large or small law firm, practice as corporate counsel, teach in a law school, or work for the government, there is a place for you to contribute and utilize your unique combination of talents, interests, and circumstances. Attorneys with corporate experience are often needed to assist Bay related organizations with not for profit filings, mergers, contract review and other matters.
CLA referred matters often need the assistance of engineers, scientists, database experts, and other professionals to serve as experts, consultants, and in other supporting roles.
CLA volunteers work on projects of their choosing as often as they choose. Once a volunteer attorney agrees to represent a client, the attorney and client will receive a letter from CLA outlining its understanding of the scope of work to be performed by the attorney. CLA asks that every volunteer report qualifying pro bono hours and apprise CLA of significant developments and the final outcome of their matters.
Yes. This insurance is primary for attorneys without professional liability insurance and secondary to any other professional liability insurance carried by attorneys and their law firms.