National Network of Legal Clinics for the Arts

In early 2020, PLEO spearheaded the creation of the The National Network of Legal Clinics for the Arts, completing the first national legal needs assessment of the arts & culture sector.

Surveying 1,150 Canadian artists, arts organizations and legal experts working in the sector, we found that 94% of artists feel strongly they have unique legal needs and lack information and training on legal issues.

The National Network of Legal Clinics for the Arts is a proposed system of connected regional legal hubs for artists and arts organizations that includes existing Canadian pro-bono legal clinics.

In our report entitled Now More Than Ever: Towards a National Network of Legal Clinics for the Arts, significant new research on the multitude of legal challenges facing individuals working in the Canadian arts sector — accelerated to critical levels due to the devastating impact of COVID-19, is revealed.

This report highlights gaps in legal needs, legal literacy and education, and protections that are taking dramatic tolls on a sector whose earnings were already near poverty levels prior to the pandemic.

To read the report or get more details, go to


Participating regional clinics include the following:

Artists Legal Advice Services (ALAS)

Established 1985, the ALAS is operated by Artists and Lawyers for the Advancement of Creativity (ALAC). The organization is based in Toronto and is run entirely by volunteer lawyers, artists and law students. The ALAS clinic is currently administered by a team of volunteer law students from the University of Toronto. ALAS’s pro bono clinic serves annually approximately 300-400 creators in Ontario and receives 10-15 inquiries per week.

ALAS serves primarily individual artists but also supports individuals inquiring on behalf of organizations whose interests are consistent with individual creators.

Area of Focus
Copyright/ IP, contracts, trademarks, royalties or other payments, defamation.

Legal Services Offered:

  • Legal clinic legal clinics (by appointment): Offered twice a week for a maximum of 6 clients per week
  • Database of online resources: legal information organized by types of legal issues and types of creators
  • Educational sessions; for which ALAS partners with various organizations

Adapting to shifting needs of service delivery, the ALAS is currently running a pilot program to provide online appointments during the COVID pandemic.



Artists Legal Outreach (ALO)

Established 2005, the ALO is operated by the Pacific Legal Education and Outreach Society (PLEO) and provides information, education and advice to artists and arts organizations in British Columbia.

ALO serves primarily individual artists

Area of Focus
Copyright/ IP, contracts, incorporation, governance, defamation

Legal Services

  • Bi-monthly legal clinic with a maximum of 12 clients/month; approximately 30 minutes per appointment.
  • Art Law Happy Hour zoom legal information clinics for artists
  • Legal Lunch and Learn webinars every Wednesday for nonprofit organizations
  • Database of online resources: legal information organized by types of legal issues and types of creators
  • Educational sessions; for which ALO partners with various organizations; including a podcast series “Yours, Mine & Ours”

Adapting to shifting needs of service delivery, the PLEO has recently held weekly online legal information clinics that have reached more than 600 organizations and individual artists – indicating significant untapped demand. This initiative will be continued in order to support artists during the impact of COVID-19 for the foreseeable future.



Artists’ Legal Services Ottawa (ALSO)

Established in 2012, ALSO is dedicated to sharing legal information with artists living in the Capital region.

ALSO serves primarily individual artists.

Area of Focus
Contracts, trademarks, privacy (photography), image rights, social media, crowdfunding, taxes, wills and estates

Legal Services

  • Referral service; refers clients to competent lawyers in the area for 30 minutes of free advice based on an email stating question as well as all available facts
  • Primarily provides information/education through events (panel discussions, conferences): Hosts annual conference When Art Meets Law—attended by visual artists
  • Online resource collection



Artists’ Legal Information Society (ALIS)

Established 2010 by a group of Dalhousie Law students, the ALIS is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but provides its services throughout Atlantic Canada. The organization’s principal mandate is to provide artists and arts organizations with access to information on their legal rights and responsibilities. The ALIS is run by a volunteer Board of Directors composed of lawyers and law students. Originally received funding from the Law Foundation of Nova Scotia, the ALIS has in the last years depended on volunteers.

The ALIS serves artists and arts organizations.

Legal Services

  • Provides referral service to volunteering (often junior) lawyers in the area for 30 to 60 mins of free advice. Should an artist require further legal assistance, the volunteer lawyer can choose to represent the artist outside of ALIS
  • Information sessions and events for arts organizations, such as workshops, talks, speaker presentations and conferences
  • Publications (Guides): The legal publications piece of the service is fulfilled by law students who provide case studies in an easy to read format, thus easily accessible to the public as well as an online legal information database



Visual Artists Legal Clinic Ontario (VALCO)

CARFAC Ontario and Torys LLP have been collaborating since 2011 to provide summary advice to visual artists. VALCO currently reports approximately 4-5 new clients per month.

VALCO serves members of CARFAC Ontario only.

Copyright, contracts, labour law, disputes, commercial leases (e.g., studio or gallery spaces), tenants’ rights, and business incorporation

Service delivery
Legal advice: Approximately 60 minutes of free summary legal advice



La Clinique Juridique des Artistes de Montréal (CJAM)

CJAM was established in 2008 by a group of McGill law students to provide free legal information in both English and French for artists living in Montreal.

The website indicates that they serve primarily designers, filmmakers, musicians, photographers, and visual artists.