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Web portal connects lawyers to those in need during pandemic

March 23, 2020

The American Bar Association web program ABA Free Legal Answers, which surpassed 100,000 inquiries earlier this month, is available to handle coronavirus-related housing, unemployment and other civil legal questions for income-eligible users.

ABA Free Legal Answers expands access to legal services for the public and pro bono opportunities for attorneys.

ABA Free Legal Answers expands access to legal services for the public and pro bono opportunities for attorneys.

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Legal guidance from volunteer attorneys is limited to non-criminal matters and takes place entirely online. The rapid U.S. spread of COVID-19 has led to a host of legal questions as well as a creation of an ABA task force to identify legal needs arising from the pandemic.

The group, the Task Force on Legal Needs Arising out of the 2020 Pandemic, will make recommendations to address legal needs and help mobilize volunteer lawyers and legal professionals for people who need help.

As ABA Free Legal Answers shows, the need is great even without a pandemic. Since its launch in 2016 by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, 41 states and more than 7,000 attorneys nationally have committed to participating in Free Legal Answers, which serves as a virtual legal advice clinic. Of those, 87 attorneys in 2019 handled at least 50 civil legal questions each and are recognized as 2019 Pro Bono Leaders.

“As the pandemic spreads, thousands of Americans will need help – not just with medical issues but also with legal issues including lost jobs, evictions, insurance claims, family emergencies and obtaining government benefits they need to survive,” ABA President Judy Perry Martinez said.” “ABA Free Legal Answers is one avenue that exists now to help. The ABA is pleased to know people are using this free service and proud of the thousands of volunteer lawyers nationwide who are helping to meet their important legal needs.”

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

The national program developed from an existing program in Tennessee and then added several additional states. It subsequently expanded by providing a national platform for additional states to join. The ABA provides legal malpractice insurance to all volunteer attorneys for their communications on the site.

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