Solicitors have been asked to contribute to a new online advice service set up to answer one-off legal questions free of charge.
Free Legal Answers, created by access to justice charity LawWorks and supported by Deloitte Legal, is a website that virtually connects people with lawyers on a pro bono basis. The service is designed to help individuals on a low income but who are nevertheless not eligible for legal aid.
The online platform – which is already established in the United States – is currently in the early stages of a pilot and 90 lawyers have signed so far. Solicitors who have experience in housing, family and employment law are in particular demand, LawWorks said.
Volunteer lawyers can preview the questions and respond at any time and from any location, and can contact the person asking the question if further information is needed. All advice provided through the website will be insured by LawWorks’ professional indemnity insurance.
The website hopes to provide initial advice to individuals who struggle to physically attend existing pro bono centres, for example due to mobility issues, health issues or Covid 19 restrictions.
Martin Barnes, CEO of LawWorks, said: ‘Pro bono is not and should not be seen as an alternative to legal aid, but it can help enable people to access the timely advice they need and which they cannot afford to pay for. We are excited about the potential for Free Legal Answers to provide new pro bono opportunities for lawyers willing to give their time and expertise for free.’
Simon Davis, Law Society president, added: ‘Free Legal Answers will help people who may not be able to visit a lawyer in person to get the advice they need. This can be life-changing for people who would otherwise have to navigate the justice system without expert help. It also provides flexibility that will enable more solicitors to work pro bono if they wish, as we know many do. As a LawWorks trustee, I am immensely proud of the charity’s work and of the profession’s commitment to pro bono and access to justice.’