National Lawyers Guild and National Bail Fund Network Release Updated Legal Defense Fund Guide


The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and the National Bail Fund Network (NBFN) have released an updated Legal Defense Fund Guide in response to increased community need for a comprehensive and accessible guide. 

Our updated Best Practices for Establishing a Legal Defense Fund guide covers many infrastructure questions a new legal defense fund may have, including how to set up criteria for eligibility and prioritization, establishing explicit governance structures, and more. These questions are explored with the goal of looking beyond traditional court fees and creating more holistic movement support by covering items like childcare costs, travel expenses, and recompensing lost income.

“There is a long tradition of communities coming together to bring people back to their communities and restore their ability to fight their cases from a place of freedom. In these times of growing surveillance and state oppression, we hope that our resources for organizers stay updated and adaptable.”

Pilar Weiss, Director of the National Bail Fund Network

Legal defense funds are one method of establishing long-term support for activists and marginalized communities responding to criminalization and repression of protest, and are different from rapid-response bail funds. More information on the function of a legal defense fund can be found in the first section of the guide.

The full guide can be accessed in PDF format on the NBFN and NLG websites.

“The criminal-legal system is built to protect those who are white, wealthy, and privileged at the expense of everyone else, so these funds are a necessary vehicle for communal support. They aren’t by any means the end goal of anti-oppression organizing, but they are one way of mobilizing legal and financial resources to provide activists with more support.”

Linh Vinh, NLG Director of Mass Defense

The guide was written and edited by Pilar Weiss of Community Justice Exchange, Sharlyn Grace of NLG Chicago and the NLG Mass Defense Steering Committee, and Linh Vinh of the NLG National Office, with input and expertise from partners and community allies.

“Legal defense funds are a vital part of social movement support infrastructure. When the state targets activists for criminalization, legal defense funds allow communities to provide protection against repression, supporting individuals and groups at the frontlines of social change. As organizations with legal expertise, it is our responsibility to make sure these tools are as accessible as possible to new and existing social movements.”

Sharlyn Grace, NLG Chicago and Mass Defense Steering Committee

A Spanish translation of Best Practices for Establishing a Legal Defense Fund is anticipated to be available sometime early in 2022.



Charlie Blodnieks
Director of Communications, National Lawyers Guild

Pilar Maria Weiss
Director, National Bail Fund Network

Linh Vinh
Director of Mass Defense, National Lawyers Guild

Posted in Press Releases.