The American Bar Association 2022 Summary Report indicates Illinois is a national leader for the virtual online legal clinic.
Over 250,000 civil legal questions have been answered since the launch of the ABA Free Legal Answers website in 2016 according to the ABA’s 2022 Summary Report. The site, which allows low-income people to post civil legal questions for lawyers to answer, was an especially important resource during the pandemic when typical legal clinics and help desks had to close during the shutdown. These effects of the pandemic are still being felt today as the increase in questions is a reminder of the unmet legal needs in the country. Over 11,000 volunteer attorneys across the country have made an incredible impact in expanding access to justice by assisting those in need in underserved and underrepresented communities.
ABA Free Legal Answers offers, for some, the only opportunity to get assistance to a legal question for those who cannot access legal services for a number of possible reasons whether it be financial, geographical, or transportation constraints. Over 15,000 questions were submitted by veterans and over 12,000 questions were submitted by seniors since the website was launched. The most common types of questions submitted pertained to Family and Children (39%), Housing and Homelessness (15%), Other (18%) or Consumer/Financial (10%).
“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.”
Illinois now has registered 1,077 volunteer attorneys, the most in the nation as of February 2023. Thanks to these volunteers, we were able to answer 3,335 civil legal questions in 2022. PILI continues to focus on volunteer recruitment and training across the state, regularly working with law firms, corporations and law schools to set up virtual clinics to train volunteers to use the site and then answer questions together. This virtual model has proven successful in engaging more volunteers who then provide quality advice to clients. According to PILI Executive Director, Michael Bergmann, “PILI is proud to serve as the state administrator for Illinois Free Legal Answers and we are so grateful to our volunteers across the state who have contributed hundreds of hours each year to help those in need of free civil legal assistance.”
Illinois Free Legal Answers is a convenient way for attorneys to volunteer their skills in a way that best fits their schedule while assisting those who have nowhere else to turn. If you would like to volunteer to answer questions for those in need, please visit our website or reach out to PILI Managing Attorney Abigail Causer by email or at 217-693-6017.