Host an Illinois Free Legal Answers Clinic
Illinois Free Legal Answers is a secure website where low-income Illinoisans can ask a lawyer for help with a civil legal issue. Volunteer lawyers then log onto the site at their convenience and answer questions waiting in the queue. It is a virtual walk-in legal clinic, but your interaction with the client is asynchronous.
A project of the American Bar Association, Free Legal Answers was created to increase access to advice and information about non-criminal legal matters for those who cannot afford legal assistance. It is now active in 41 jurisdictions within the United States, including Illinois. In Illinois, PILI is the state administrator of the site, responsible for recruitment, training and support of volunteers.
One great way to get attorneys started with the platform is by hosting a clinic, which can introduce volunteers to Illinois Free Legal Answers and provide a team environment to answer civil legal questions for those in need of help. Clinics can also involve law students, paralegals or other legal professionals paired with attorneys to work together in answering questions. This is a great model for law firms, corporations, bar associations or law schools. This is also a great partnership opportunity for these groups to come together for a joint clinic.
Here are the steps:
#1. Determine setup and pick a date, time, and location for your clinic.
- Training component: PILI can attend to provide a 15-20 minute training to go over the site and questions. Additionally, if your attorneys would prefer to have a longer training, PILI can deliver a CLE program as part of the clinic with Illinois MCLE credit for 0.5 or 1 hour.
- Time: We recommend scheduling your clinic for at least 1 hour, not including the training component.
- Setup: Decide if you will host volunteers over Zoom or similar platform, in person, using breakouts or having volunteers go off and answer questions on their own.
- Some groups have organized a social gathering or reception to follow the Clinic.
#2. Recruit your volunteers and publicize the event.
- PILI can work with you to develop publicity materials for the event.
- We recommend you have volunteers register in advance either through you or through PILI.
- There is no minimum or maximum number of volunteers needed.
#3. Get your volunteers ready.
- Ask your volunteers to register and create an account on IL.FreeLegalAnswers.org before your clinic. Volunteer accounts need to be approved before you can start answering questions, so it is important to do this step in advance of the clinic to avoid any delay.
- Additional resources are available through PILI at www.pili.org/legal-answers-resources (password protected) which you might want to share with your volunteers in advance. PILI will provide you with the password for this page when you confirm your clinic.
#4. Clinic day: start answering questions! There are several ways you can set up the clinic.
- Consider pairing more junior attorneys with more senior attorneys to answer questions.
- Ask for areas of interest from attorneys and match attorneys based on their interest.
- Consider doing research and drafting an answer before submitting.
If interesting in hosting a clinic or for more information, please email us.