In just over six months, the Virginia State Bar’s Virginia.freelegalanswers.org website has already passed a milestone. On March 14, the 201st question was posted on the site.
The site is part of the American Bar Association’s multi-state initiative to provide online pro bono civil legal assistance to Virginia residents with income levels of 250 percent of the poverty guidelines or less (an income of just over $29,000 annually for a single adult).
Qualified users of the service post legal question that are then placed in a queue for Virginia lawyers according to the nature of the legal issue or type of problem (i.e., "Family/Divorce/Custody" or "Debts & Purchases"). In addition to the question, the user posts relevant facts and may even attach documents and photos.
So far, about 33 percent of the posted questions have to do with “family/divorce/custody” issues. The next-largest category, at 17 percent, is “housing/property law.” Other questions have dealt with employment issues, debts and purchases, and civil rights.
Volunteer lawyers who have signed up for the website review the questions and select one to answer. To date, 199 of the 201 posted questions have been answered by lawyers.
The question queue also provides the lawyer with information about the identity of the opposing party, the legal deadline (court date or when the client is requesting a response) and how long the question has been in the queue. If the lawyer needs additional information to answer the question, she may leave the queue open to communicate with the client via the website or she may post an answer and close the conversation. The interaction is limited to responding to the legal inquiry.
To use the site, simply go to the "Get Started" page on Virginia.freelegalanswers.org, complete the user registration, and if you meet the financial eligibility requirements, you may post up to three civil legal questions in a year.
Virginia.freelegalanswers.org is one of many ways the Virginia State Bar serves the people of Virginia. For example, this year is the 40th anniversary of the Virginia Lawyer Referral Service. People who call the service at 1(800) 552-7977 are interviewed by a referral specialist who will determine whether they would benefit from discussing the matter with a lawyer, and then for a small fee will refer the caller to a private lawyer for a 30-minute consultation.Updated: Mar 14, 2017
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