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CHICAGO, Feb. 14, 2023 —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, has released a nationwide list of lawyers, law firms, corporate law departments, law schools and other legal organizations who in 2022 handled the most online questions.
Launched in 2016, the program operates in 41 jurisdictions, including a federal portal that addresses veterans benefits and immigration questions, while an additional jurisdiction is committed to participating. Nearly 12,000 attorneys nationally have registered to volunteer on ABA Free Legal Answers (FLA), which operates virtually. Of those, 140 attorneys in 2022 — similar to last year’s number — handled at least 50 civil legal questions each and are recognized as 2022 ABA Free Legal Answers Pro Bono Leaders. In addition, 24 law firms, corporate law departments and other legal organizations were recognized for answering at least 75 questions in 2022.
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 250,000 total questions in November 2022, and through the end of January has responded to 264,727 inquiries.
“ABA Free Legal Answers continues to provide a critical resource for civil legal matters for those who cannot afford an attorney and often have nowhere else to turn,” ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross said. “We salute those attorneys, law firms, corporate law departments and other legal organizations nationally who have demonstrated their extraordinary pro bono commitment by leading by example. We urge other attorneys to step up and assist as well. The need has never been greater.”
Geared to expand legal services for low-income communities, the service requires users to 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.
“It’s a great fit for our department because attorneys can participate in this pro bono project at their convenience, without any expectation of court appearances or a long-term commitment,” said Kristen M. Whittle, who coordinates the program at Liberty Mutual and whose attorneys handled 263 questions in 2022 on the Massachusetts and New Hampshire sites. In addition to providing volunteer attorney time, Liberty Mutual is also an FLA sponsor, as the program relies on private contributions to keep this free service available for those needing legal assistance.
Pro bono leader Anthony M. Czar, who answered 233 civil legal questions on the FLA site in Massachusetts where he is licensed, said the program has developed into one of his daily joys. “It’s so gratifying, both professionally and personally,” he explained. “Nothing feels better than giving a helping hand and asking nothing in return.”
FLA began through a collaboration between the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and the law firm Baker Donelson, consolidating the web 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 www.ABAFreeLegalAnswers.org 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.