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December 06, 2022

ABA Free Legal Answers surpasses quarter-million questions, 11,000 volunteer attorneys

CHICAGO, Dec. 6, 2022 —The American Bar Association web program ABA Free Legal Answers, which gives income-eligible users the ability to pose civil legal questions to volunteer attorneys, surpassed the 250,000 mark in total questions in November, reflecting the continued need for pro bono civil legal aid services.

Launched in 2016, 41 jurisdictions, including a 2021 federal portal that addresses veterans benefits and immigration questions, operate nationwide, while an additional jurisdiction soon will join the network. Nearly 11,500 attorneys nationally have participated in ABA Free Legal Answers, which operates virtually.

The nationwide program has emerged as a no-cost way for eligible participants to obtain basic civil legal guidance, as pro bono lawyers have fielded more than 50,000 inquiries annually since 2019. Free Legal Answers topped 200,000 questions earlier this year; through Nov. 30, the program has recorded 253,280 inquiries.

“For more than six years, ABA Free Legal Answers has provided a critical resource for civil legal matters for those who cannot afford an attorney and have nowhere else to turn,” ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross said. “We have now topped the quarter-million mark in questions and have more than 11,000 volunteer lawyers nationwide generously providing services. We are so grateful for those attorneys who have participated. But the need is still great. We urge other attorneys to step up and assist as well.”

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

Throughout the six-year program, the types and volumes of questions have remained relatively steady, with roughly four out of 10 questions or 40% relating to family and children-related legal matters; 15% stemming from housing and homelessness; and 10% involving consumer/finance.

The program has grown in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic and has increasingly fielded more questions related to it. In November alone, 5,003 questions were submitted through Free Legal answers, and many appeared related to the pandemic. The number of questions represents a 112% increase over November 2019.

Also, since Hurricane Ian hit Florida in late September, the Florida site has received 1,197 submitted questions, many appearing to be hurricane related. The volume represents a 33% increase over the same period in 2021. Of the questions submitted since Ian, users sought hurricane-related answers in 59 instances while 36 volunteer attorneys registered to assist Florida residents, a 500% increase over the same period a year earlier.

Additional details on ABA Free Legal Answers through November can be found here and a video overview of the program here.  In 2016, the national program began through a collaboration between the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and the law firm Baker Donelson, consolidating the web-existing programs in Tennessee and other states. It then expanded by inviting other states to participate through the national platform. Nationally, attorneys can volunteer their services by navigating to and selecting “Attorney Registration.”

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers 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.