The online program, ABA Free Legal Answers, includes participation from more than 10,000 U.S. lawyers in 45 states, according to information from the trade group. The web-based ask-and-answer service is aimed at helping income-eligible residents get legal assistance from volunteer attorneys.
“For those who cannot afford an attorney and have nowhere else to turn, ABA Free Legal Answers serves as a critical resource,” said ABA President Reginald Turner in a statement. “We are proud of the more than 10,000 volunteer lawyers nationwide who are helping to meet these important legal needs, and particularly pleased about the efforts of our FLA Pro Bono Leaders. We urge other attorneys to step up and assist as well.”
Recently, the ABA recognized the most prolific volunteer attorneys with the publication of its 2021 Pro Bono Leaders list. Texas led the pack with 14 individuals, organizations, schools or law firms answering more than 50 inquiries. Illinois, though, was a close second with 13 such entities qualifying for recognition.
“ABA Free Legal Answers offers a flexible online platform, even in pandemic conditions, to do this important pro bono work from our offices, homes, makeshift workstations at the courthouse and on our own time,” said attorney Brandon A. Robinson. “Participating on the platform with hundreds of North Carolinians has been one of my daily joys during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
"IMPORTANT UPDATE Since the project began on Monday 28 February, the response from the profession has been humbling, and somewhat overwhelming. The project has registered over 430 volunteer lawyers to date and given pro bono advice on almost 700 requests."
According to the ABA, the program has helped answer close to 200,000 inquiries and has doubled in volume over the last two years.
Earlier this year, The Association of Pro Bono Counsel put out a report detailing the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on the pro bono service industry, and highlighted some of the ways to retain best practices moving forward. The report “Positive Change: How the Pandemic Changed Pro Bono and What We Should Keep,” includes analysis from the legal services community, non-profit legal advocates and experts in the field, according to the Counsel. “We hope it will spark thoughtful discussion about how we pro bono volunteers, legal services organizations, bar associations and the courts can continue to expand access to justice for all members of our communities,” reads information from the group.
According to the report, the Counsel recommends legal service providers offer things like virtual clinics, online platforms, in-person meetings when technological resources are unavailable, technological resources for volunteers and e-filing, among other things.
“This final report documents changes to the delivery of pro bono legal services during the pandemic, with the focus primarily on how the adjustments to intake, representation and advocacy impacted clients,” notes the report. “Our hope is that documenting and sharing these experiences and practices will inspire those responsible for delivering pro bono legal services… and those responsible for the systems with which pro bono client communities interact … to consider keeping the changes that benefited client communities, and to continue to develop accessible, client-centered systems that deliver just outcomes.”