Struggling musicians can turn to Harvard University's hallowed halls for help. Now in its sixth year, Harvard Law School's Recording Artists' Project (RAP) offers legal assistance to Boston area artis

LOS ANGELES--Struggling musicians can turn to Harvard University's hallowed halls for help.

Now in its sixth year, Harvard Law School's Recording Artists' Project (RAP) offers legal assistance to Boston area artists. And the venerable institution has just struck a deal with nearby Berklee School of Music to provide business services.

"It works like an exchange," says Bakari Brock, a second-year Harvard law student who participates in the program.

Berklee students will now serve as "business advocates" for RAP's clients. "They can help people create business models, set up new ventures. We've always cross-promoted events, but now we can further share upon each other's resources."

If the pilot program goes well, Brock says it will roll out to include more Berklee business students in RAP.

Harvard law students created RAP in 1998. "They were interested in the music field and saw the need for the potential client base," says Brian Price, who is one of the two supervising attorneys who manages RAP.

"They felt there was exploitation in the music industry. Artists don't know the contracts they're signing. They could empower artists to make educated decisions," says Price.

RAP's clients are artists, small labels, managers, and production companies. "Most people do need help in terms of understanding the contracts," Price says. "We also help with trademark searches and registrations."

RAP's work is strictly transactional civil law. Participating law students work at the center for course credit.

RAP conducts intake interviews with its clients and will often ask for tax returns to make sure the person is not earning too much to use its services.

"We look at what they can afford to pay, but if their primary occupation is being an artist, they can't afford much," Brock says. "It's usually a no-brainer. You usually don't have a wealthy individual asking for pro bono work."

Payment is on a sliding scale based on the client's income, but most cases are pro bono. "Sometimes we charge them a small feel so they feel invested," Brock says.

RAP attracts clients through word of mouth in the music community, but it also advertises its services on local radio.

The participating law students generally handle case loads of up to five or six clients. "Once they've left here, they've seen record company contracts and licensing agreements," Price says. "The program offers the students the chance to practice in a realistic setting while still in law school."