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ABA launches free legal Q&A service to broaden access to justice opportunities

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ABA launches free legal Q&A service to broaden access to justice opportunities

By John Glynn

CHICAGO, Sept. 22, 2016 — The American Bar Association has rolled out a new web program, ABAFreeLegalAnswers.org, to give income-eligible users the ability to pose civil legal questions to volunteer attorneys.

The new service, a virtual legal advice clinic, is now available in eight states — Connecticut, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming — with plans to have service available in the majority of states by the end of this year.

Geared to expand legal services for low-income communities, users of the service will have to meet income eligibility guidelines applicable to each state. While expanding access to legal services, the ABA Free Legal Answers program also expands pro bono opportunities for attorneys in a convenient way to match their schedules.

“Free Legal Answers is a no-cost, online version of the walk-in clinic model where clients request brief advice and counsel about a specific civil legal issue from a volunteer lawyer,” ABA President Linda Klein said. “It is an important part of the ABA’s efforts to expand access to legal services to low-income communities. With our partner states, the program also provides significant pro bono opportunities for lawyers. It’s a real win-win.”

The ABA initiative draws from some existing programs while helping state partners implement new ones. Tennessee, for example, has successfully operated its program for six years. The Virginia State Bar recently initiated its own program as part of the ABA initiative, and more than 170 attorneys statewide have indicated interest in participating.

Nationally, attorneys can volunteer their services to existing and future participating state programs by clicking here. ABA Free Legal Answers is a project of the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service.

Software developers at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC in Memphis, Tenn., created the site of ABA Free Legal Answers. The initiative is generously supported by AT&T, Baker Donelson, FedEx Ground, International Paper, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, Pilot Travel Centers LLC, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the ABA sections of Business Law and Litigation and others.

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement on line. Follow the latest ABA news at www.americanbar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews