ABA FREE LEGAL ANSWERS

Legal advice program grows with need during COVID-19

April 27, 2020

The American Bar Association’s nationwide effort to expand free online civil legal advice to income-eligible residents is growing, spurred in part by rising legal needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nationwide, 42 states and jurisdictions have agreed to participate in ABA Free Legal Answers, with New Jersey the latest to sign on. At least a dozen states have lowered their financial restrictions during the pandemic, allowing thousands more to direct non-criminal legal questions to licensed attorneys. 

From March 1 through mid-April, ABA Free Legal Answers received nearly 5,000 questions, with many on pandemic-related issues.

From March 1 through mid-April, ABA Free Legal Answers received nearly 5,000 questions, with many on pandemic-related issues.

Getty Images

Also, the income eligibility requirement for the program has been updated to clarify that users who were recently laid off should indicate current household income rather than annual income.

ABA Free Legal Answers has seen an increase in the number of volunteer attorneys participating and the numbers of legal questions posed by individuals. From March 1 through mid-April, the site received nearly 5,000 questions, with many on pandemic-related issues. Nearly 500 new volunteer licensed attorneys signed up during that period, about 2½ times the number of newly registered attorneys for the previous two months.

“Free Legal Answers offers a valuable pro bono resource for attorneys and clients and can address many of the basic legal questions, both long-standing and pandemic-related, that arise,” ABA President Judy Perry Martinez said. “As in-person legal clinics have been largely canceled, and legal issues increase in areas such as unemployment, workplace safety, unforeseen medical bills, unemployment benefits and landlord-tenant disputes, this service provides the public with continued access to quality legal advice.”

The national program, which began in 2016, reached a milestone of 100,000 questions in early March. It has expanded from a program in Tennessee to a national platform coordinated by the ABA. The ABA also provides legal malpractice insurance to all volunteer attorneys for their communications on the site.

Related links: