Remote Pro Bono: How Attorneys Can Help During a Pandemic
As Arkansans have embraced social distancing to protect our friends and families from the spread of COVID-19, working families are feeling tremendous economic stress. Many workers from waiters to hair stylists have seen their wages completely evaporate in a matter of days. While Congress is working to soften the blow of the pandemic, many of our fellow Arkansans are going to have pressing legal needs in the coming days and weeks. Arkansans will have questions about unemployment benefits, SNAP (food stamps), eviction, foreclosure, custody and visitation, and domestic abuse, among many others.
Arkansas attorneys consistently step up to help their neighbors in need. Each year, attorneys volunteer at dozens of legal clinics. They prepare estate planning documents at Wills for Heroes, they help clients get a fresh start at expungement clinics, and they provide guidance to pro se litigants lost in the system at Court Help programs. With social distancing many programs like these are no longer possible.
So, how can you help? By providing pro bono legal advice online! Arkansas Access to Justice has partnered with the American Bar Association, the Arkansas Bar Association, and the Arkansas Bar Foundation to provide legal advice to low-income Arkansans through a secure online chatroom called AR Free Legal Answers. Here’s how it works:
- Sign up using the form below;
- We’ll send monthly emails with the questions we receive from low-income Arkansans (We may send emails more frequently during the COVID-19 pandemic.);
- Read through the questions and pick the ones you want to help with;
- Type an answer to the client’s question;
- The client can follow up with additional information or follow-up questions; and
- When your done helping the client, click “Close Question” or let it close automatically after two weeks of inactivity.
Do you have questions? Check out our FAQ section below or contact us.
Thanks for providing hope for those in need!
Sign Up to Help
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to answer a question?
The vast majority of questions can be answered by an experienced attorney in about 15 minutes. It may take a little longer if the client has follow up questions.
How many questions do I have to answer?
You can answer as many or as few questions as you like. We have some volunteers who answer one question and some who answer 100. Any amount of help makes a difference!
Are court appearances required?
No. Our clients agree to limited scope representation. The only service we provide to the client is advice. If you are so inclined, you can draft documents or pleadings for the client as well, but that isn’t required.
If you draft a pleading, just be sure to include the disclosure required by Arkansas Rule of Civil Procedure 87. That disclosure goes just below the Rule 11 signature line (the client signs the document) and should say “This document was prepared with the assistance of [insert name of attorney], a licensed Arkansas lawyer, pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2(c).”
What about malpractice insurance?
The American Bar Association pays for a malpractice policy to cover pro bono work done through AR Free Legal Answers.
What if I only have expertise in one area?
That’s okay. You can just answer questions in your area of expertise. Also, a substantial portion of the questions we receive can be answered by any attorney. For example, sometimes a “family law” question is really just a question about service.
Can I count my time for the purposes of Rule 6.1?
Yes! When you answer a question, you’re given the opportunity to record your time. This is optional, but some attorneys like to record their pro bono time for firm purposes or to help make sure they meet the 50 hour pro bono goal found in Arkansas Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1.
You can get a report of your time and/or number of questions answered by contacting Jordan Bates-Rogers, the AR Free Legal Answers administrator.
Can I help if I am retired or voluntary inactive?
Yes! The Arkansas Supreme Court has recognized that retired and voluntary inactive attorneys have valuable knowledge and skills that can make a difference and has authorized them to provide pro bono service. You can learn more about this here.
AR Free Legal Answers is operated jointly by the American Bar Association, the Arkansas Bar Association, and the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission. Financial support is provided by the Arkansas Bar Foundation.