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Florida Bar Launches Pro Bono Online

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on August 15, 2017 1:00 PM

The American Bar Association has made it a lot easier for lawyers to provide pro bono services in Florida.

Working through the Florida Bar Association, the ABA has launched a free legal service online in the Sunshine State. ABA Free Legal Answers is a website that provides legal answers and advice to people who cannot afford it.

"It sounds unbelievable," the Pensacola New Journal reported, "but there are already 500 licensed attorneys waiting to answer your questions."

Florida and Beyond

Through the website, users may ask specific legal questions. They are directed to attorney volunteers -- not robots -- and the answers are provided through the website.

The service is directed to low-income people with civil, not criminal, legal questions. Users must attest to having a household income below 250 percent of the federal poverty level, and they must be at least 18 years old and have not more than $6,000 in total assets.

Attorneys may register to volunteer on the website, provided they agree to the terms of use. They include maintaining client confidentiality, avoiding conflicts and contacting the ABA or the appropriate state entity if they take any pro bono cases outside the website's services.

"You must be licensed and in good standing in the state for which you have registered with ABA Free Legal Answers and must be authorized to give pro bono legal advice," the website says.

Pro Bono Online

ABA Model Rule 6.1 says that every lawyer has professional responsibility to provide legal services to those who are unable to pay. "A lawyer should aspire to render at least (50) hours of pro bono publico legal services per year," it says.

ABA Free Legal Answers makes it as easy for lawyers as answering email. The ABA rolled out the program in eight other states last year, including Connecticut, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming.

With the latest launch in Florida, the ABA program is spreading across the country.

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