attorney-run group offers artists free access to legal services

The legal and arts world don't seem like a natural pair, barring the occasional tabloid story about a drug-addled starlet backing her BMW into a police car.

The Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts Committee (VLA) is bringing those realms together in a more positive fashion by providing the local arts community information about the law as well as free access to legal services.

VLA, a committee of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, refers low-income artists and arts organizations to lawyers for pro bono legal representation, gives informational talks to artists and arts groups, and presents legal seminars to lawyers regarding the arts.

In other words, if an artist needs legal advice about starting a nonprofit arts organization, protecting a copyright, or even forming a band, he or she can turn to VLA, says chairman Todd Masuda, an attorney with Schneider, Smeltz, Ranney & LaFond.

"It's by-need legal work," Masuda says. "Our attorneys will review applications and determine if they meet our criteria" of financial need and relation to the arts.

VLA recently gave a talk to lawyers at the new MOCA. The organization is planning a spring seminar for artists on nonprofit formation issues and health insurance options for the underemployed. 

Steve Day, a VLA volunteer and attorney with Calfee, Halter & Griswold, believes the arts-law connection is an important one for Cleveland.

"If you want an attractive city, you need a lively, vibrant arts community," says Day. "We're helping artists navigate legal roadblocks that would be too expensive for them to handle otherwise."

SOURCE: Todd Masuda, Steve Day
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth
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