A new website, sponsored by the New York State Bar Association and the American Bar Association, allows New Yorkers—who cannot afford a lawyer—to post legal questions online and have them answered by lawyers at no cost.
“Free Legal Answers is an online version of a walk-in clinic, where low-income people with simple legal questions can get answers from volunteer attorneys,” said State Bar Association President Claire Gutekunst. “We call it “pro bono in your PJs,” because attorneys can provide pro bono assistance whenever and wherever it is convenient for them.”
The site, NY.FreeLegalAnswers.org, is available to low-income New Yorkers. Questions are limited to non-criminal legal matters, such as landlord-tenant problems, consumer debt or family issues. Lawyers answering the questions are volunteers.
The State Bar Association kicks off Pro Bono Week with a continuing legal education (CLE) program for attorneys who wish to learn more about NY Free Legal Answers. It will be held Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Bar Center, One Elk Street, Albany, N.Y. The program, which carries 1 MCLE credit, is free. (A recording of the program will be posted online for viewing. Similar events will be held in other areas of the state over the coming year.)
Attorneys can scan posted questions to determine which fall within their areas of expertise and choose which ones to answer. They can submit answers at any time of day. All questions and answers are confidential.
To use New York Free Legal Answers, individuals must register on the website, NY.FreeLegalAnswers.org, and respond to screening questions to determine if their income qualifies them for the service. Those not qualifying will be directed to lawyer referral and other relevant services in their communities.
Clients, who must be at least 18 years old, can ask three legal questions each year. Individuals who do not have access to a computer can use one at their local public library.
New York Free Legal Answers is part of a nationwide effort, hosted by the American Bar Association, to use technology to expand access to legal services. It is modeled after a successful interactive website launched by the Tennessee Bar Association in 2011.
The 74,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876.
Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen
Director, Media Services and Public Affairs