As managing director of the Evolution Theatre Company, Mark Phillips Schwamberger prides himself on taking artistic risks. But when it came to securing tax-exempt charitable status under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code, Schwamberger went all risk-averse. "It's a simple matter, but it's not a simple matter," Schwamberger says. "You need to get this right the first time, or red flags come up."

Fortunately the Arts Legal Assistance Program, created by the Greater Columbus Arts Council (GCAC) and the Columbus Bar Association, was there to help. "We're trying to aim the program at individuals and organizations that don't really have the infrastructure or the budget to get the kind of professional help they need in this area," says GCAC President Milt Baughman.

Chester Willcox & Saxbe associate Jason Beehler helped Schwamberger with the IRS paperwork. Beehler studied creative writing at Ohio Wesleyan University and spent six years working for GCAC before starting law school in 2006.

Beehler says even lawyers without such direct arts links like the program: "The legal community, I think--especially in Columbus, to its credit--is very serious about the responsibility of lawyers to give back in the community to people who can't afford our services."

The program assists nonprofits in matters such as contracts, copyright, trademark, lease agreements and corporate structure. Ultimately, says Beehler, it's not just a handout, but an opportunity to educate artists and arts organizations about the necessity of planning for legal needs: "Legal services should be a component of what you budget for."

Reprinted from the March 2011 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.