Non-profit & Charity Law
Charity law covers the rules relating to the setting up and operation of charities and non-profit organisations. It can be an ideal way to combine a career in law with a passion for anything charitable, such as the arts and culture, the environment, human rights, working with children, sport, health, and so on. It is a small but wide-ranging sector.
What does this type of lawyer do?
Charity lawyers either work for a firm specialising in the area or, occasionally, in-house at larger charities.
Work varies and is diverse, and you may find yourself working on wills and trusts, advising on governance, charitable status and relationships with the Charity Commission, to dealing with enquiries regarding tax and VAT, inheritance law, contracts, mergers and takeovers, partnerships, fundraising, political activities and campaigning, gaming and lotteries, trading and so on; plus potentially dealing with all sorts of other areas that affect not-for-profit organisations, such as employment law, data protection, dealing with land, intellectual property, financial services and media enquiries.
What skills are required?
Empathy and a passion for and interest in the sector are key to working in Charity Law – but if you truly to want to help then this area can give a lot of satisfaction.
Charity Lawyers are likely to be generalist rather than a specialist, to cover the wide-ranging needs of Charities. One important reason for this is costs; charities are accountable to their stakeholders – beneficiaries, donors, members of the public and the Charity Commission which makes them money-conscious and they do not want enormous teams of lawyers involved in every problem.
The charity sector has not escaped the need to become commercially aware. Government cuts and the never-ending need to run efficiently has pushed charities into coming up with increasingly ingenious ways to raise money. This, alongside stricter regulations governing charitable bodies, increased competition from new charities, and the pressures of being in the media spotlight has meant that many long-established charities have been forced to change the way they govern themselves to respond to the marketplace.
Additionally it is useful, in relation to some charities, to be familiar with the law in the areas in which they operate e.g. education, health, social care, etc.
In recent years funding to charities has been hit by both the general economic climate and government cuts. However, following from the much publicised ‘Big Society’ initiative, charities are being encouraged to become more involved in the provision of services. While pressure is being placed on charities to do more with less, they are also facing criticism over certain practices and increased regulation of the sector seems likely in the near future, for example via the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill announced in 2015.
What's it like in practice
"Practising Charity Law" -
- LawCareers.net: http://www.lawcareers.net
- Chambers Student Guide: http://www.chambersstudent.co.uk
- The Charity Commission for England and Wales:
- The Charity Law Association: http://charitylawassociation.org.uk
Keeping up to date with Charity news