In this latest Community Profile, we are highlighting the amazing volunteer work of Jack Fan, a volunteer with Texas Free Legal Answers. Jack is a solo practitioner in Plano, Texas, where he practices in the areas of estate planning, probate, and family law. Jack began volunteering with Texas Free Legal Answers in June 2017. Texas Free Legal Answers is part of the American Bar Association’s Free Legal Answers online legal advice clinic. Qualified users log on and post their civil legal questions. Then, volunteer attorneys like Jack provide legal assistance and advice by answering those questions. Since Jack began volunteering with the site in June 2017, he has taken over 1000 questions on Texas Free Legal Answers! We caught up with Jack to learn more about his pro bono work with Texas Free Legal Answers.
What do you like about Free Legal Answers(FLA)?
The initial appeal of FLA was the simplicity and convenience of the site. I do a lot of pro bono work with Neighborhood Clinics hosted by Northwest Legal Aid of Texas and the Dallas Volunteer Lawyers Project, but sometimes it can be hard to get to the clinics because of my schedule. With FLA, I can do pro bono from the convenience of my office or home.
The main thing I like about FLA is that it really highlights many of the nuanced questions and issues that people are facing. One of the great things about doing pro bono is that it gives you greater exposure to client’s problems. Pro bono shows attorneys what issues people are really facing. The convenience of FLA is appealing, but it also really provides a pulse of what is going on with clients today, what issues they are facing, and what questions they are asking.
How long do you spend answering questions?
I try to spend about an hour a week at a minimum. I check-in and see what questions are asked, and answer as many as I can. It fluctuates, for example from time to time, such as on holidays, I may spend a few hours a day answering questions.
As a solo practitioner, one of the most appealing aspects of FLA is the convenience factor. Sometimes it isn’t practical to travel to do pro bono, but with FLA if you have a few minutes throughout the week to answer questions or provide guidance, you can do a tremendous amount of work without having to travel.
What types of questions do you typically answer?
I generally look at probate and estate planning questions. But, I have been able to expand my practice areas with FLA. If I see a question that I don’t know the answer to, I will find the answer. One of the things that I really like about the site is that it is a way to really build my practice into areas such as family law, landlord tenant, and debt issues.
One thing I find most important about the site is that volunteer attorneys serve as a triage. There are some questions that can’t be completely answered online, but people may not even know where to go for legal help. For us to be able to give some basic guidance first and help them find assistance is also very valuable.
Why is pro bono work important to you and what would you tell others about doing pro bono?
It’s important for me to give back to the community, but as a solo, it’s also a way to develop my practice and become a better lawyer. Sometimes people are afraid to do pro bono for various reasons. My best advice is that sometimes people don’t necessarily need a lawyer, they need someone who can hear their problems and guide them to the best place to find legal advice. Any help that you can give, even if it’s a listening ear or a nudge in the right direction is a tremendous amount of help. When people come to FLA, it may be their last straw, they don’t know where else to turn.
Free Legal Answers is also a really insightful way to find out what’s going on in your local community. When I see all the Texas questions, I identify trends. From there, I know when I’m developing pro bono education or public speaking events what types of questions I need to answer because these are the questions that I see all the time. Texas Free Legal Answers is a great way to find out what issues people are facing and how to get involved with your local community.
Thanks Jack for taking time to tell us about your work with Texas Free Legal Answers, and for being such a pro bono rock star! We appreciate all your hard work and all you do for clients every day!