TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Journal News on Jan 1, 2017

Journal Issue Date: Jan 2017

Journal Name: January 2017 - Vol. 53, No. 1

The American Bar Association (ABA) is in the midst of rolling out ABAFreeLegalAnswers.org, the nation’s first interactive pro bono site that will help low income citizens obtain free legal advice. The purpose of the website is to increase access to advice and information about non-criminal legal matters to those who cannot afford it. There is no fee for the use of the system or for the advice and information provided by the lawyer.

In 2015, the ABA decided to establish this national online legal advice platform after seeing the success of the Tennessee model, which was the first statewide resource of its type in the country. Currently more than 40 states across the country have signed up to participate in ABAFreeLegalAnswers.org.

The Tennessee model was OnlineTNJustice.org, now known as Tennessee Free Legal Answers, a joint project of the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) and the Tennessee Bar Association (TBA).

TNFreeLegalAnswers.org allows Tennesseans to seek free legal advice from volunteer lawyers. Since the website’s launch in 2011, it has handled more than 12,500 questions with the assistance of more than 500 lawyer volunteers.

“In Tennessee alone, we've seen how these online services can help thousands of people who need legal assistance but can’t afford a lawyer,” George T. “Buck” Lewis says.

“Magnify that impact across more than 40 states and cities, and you have a very powerful tool for providing timely and critical help to low income people across the nation.” Lewis is chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, a shareholder with Baker Donelson and a former TBA president. The software for OnlineTNJustice was created and donated by the IT department of Baker Donelson, which has continued to provide support during the development of the national ABAFreeLegalAnswers site.