In the Spotlight: ABA Free Legal Answers

Buck Lewis sat in a hearing in a small East Tennessee town. As Tennessee Bar President, he’d heard the same testimony time and again: Low-income families had to travel long distances to find a lawyer, and working families couldn’t make legal aid office hours. As he emailed his clients back in Memphis between testimony, it dawned on him: Why can’t we advise low-income clients this way?

Buck envisioned a virtual pro bono clinic. The model was simple yet elegant: Qualifying clients post civil legal questions to a website. Volunteer attorneys select questions and provide legal advice. Client and counsel alike can log in anytime, anywhere.

Working with the Tennessee Bar Association and the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, and using software developed by his firm, Baker Donelson, Buck launched Online Tennessee Justice (OTJ) in 2009. Today, volunteer attorneys have answered over 13,000 legal questions through OTJ.

Why can’t we advise low income clients this way?

Seeing potential for expansion, Buck turned to the ABA Pro Bono and Public Service Committee. Soon after, ABA Free Legal Answers was born.

ABA Free Legal Answers aims to take Buck’s model nationwide. Already available in 20 states, ABA Free Legal Answers will reach more than 40 states by the end of 2017. In each state, the ABA partners with bar associations, legal aid agencies, or access to justice commissions, which recruit clients and volunteer attorneys. Since its launch several months ago, the site has served nearly 2,000 clients.

ABA Free Legal Answers combines three of our favorite things: collaboration, technology, and access to justice. We’re excited to see this project expand. If you have questions about the project or would like to volunteer, go to ABA Free Legal Answers or email abafreeleganswers@americanbar.org. You can contact Buck directly at Blewis@bakerdonelson.com.

Center for Innovation at ABA Midyear

The Center will be presenting a program at the ABA 2017 Midyear Meeting in Miami, FL. It will provide an overview of the legal landscape and the need for innovation, along with a quick tutorial on how to successfully develop and use apps to assist with the delivery of legal services.

Program Description: There are tectonic shifts occurring in the practice of law. Technology and globalization are impacting all sectors of the profession. Understanding these trends and harnessing them for your practice is essential to being successful in the 21st century.

This workshop will enhance your ability to thrive in this new arena. From providing you with a snapshot of changing market forces, to helping you develop practical uses for technology, this program will provide hands-on tools and information on how you can be more entrepreneurial in this new world.

Attendees also will receive a tutorial on the many ways to increase access to legal services through the use of online apps, as well as a demonstration of the new ABA Blueprint project that provides a suite of services for solo and small firms.

MODERATOR:
Ramon A. Abadin, Sedgwick LLP, Miami, FL
SPEAKERS:
Chad E. Burton, CuroLegal, Dayton, OH
Jordan Furlong, Law21, Ottawa, ON
Judy Perry Martinez, New Orleans, LA
Margaret Hagan, Stanford University Law School, Stanford, CA

Legal Innovations 101  February 5, 2017, 1:00-3:00pm Hyatt Regency Miami, 3rd Floor, Miami Lecture Hall

Program flyer with speaker bios.(PDF)