Free Legal Answers California
Free Legal Answers California is a collaboration between Legal Access Alameda, and California Lawyers Association, DLAC and the ABA. The aim of Free Legal Answers California is to provide low-income, Northern California residents with legal assistance regarding wildfire, and COVID-19 legal matters.
Free Legal Answers offers you a unique opportunity to do brief, disaster or COVID-19-related pro bono at a time that works for you – before breakfast, when the baby is finally asleep, or during a break in your meeting schedule. We provide training, expert oversight, and insurance, so you don’t need to worry about making a misstep, and you can make a real difference in the life of a low-income person struggling with wildfire or COVID19-related issues.
This page contains sign up information and FAQs regarding Free Legal Answers California.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Free Legal Answers is a virtual legal advice clinic that offers free legal advice to low income residents of Northern California. The legal advice will be specific to legal matters relating to wildfires and COVID-19. The clinic is hosted by Legal Access Alameda, California Lawyers Association, and the American Bar Association.
Low income residents of Northern California post a request for legal advice and/or information and provide facts that will help the attorney answer legal questions related to COVID-19. Attorneys will then choose a question, draft an answer to the question, and send their draft to the FLA administrator. The FLA administrator will forward your draft to an expert attorney for review and if needed, editing. After attorneys receive the expert response, they should make the changes (if applicable) and send the answer to the client.
Volunteers are agreeing to provide legal advice through the Website on a pro bono basis. Volunteers must be licensed in California and, in good standing. Volunteers who complete the trainings and the agreement will be authorized to use the system and to respond to the user’s request for legal advice and/or information.
Volunteers sign up for a week. During that week, volunteers will answer at least three (3) questions. The volunteer can see what questions have been posed, and select one to answer – and do so at whatever time of the day works for them. Then, they send a draft answer to the FLA admin, who will have the draft reviewed by an expert. When volunteers receive the expert’s response, they should make necessary changes before sending the answer to the client.
First, go to https://disasterlegalservicesca.org/flacalifornia to complete the COVID-19 volunteer pledge. Second, watch the FLA California training videos (a list of which appears on the pledge). Third, log-on to ca.freelegalanswers.org to review the Attorney Use Agreement and create an account. Lastly, email the FLA admin to schedule yourself for a week to volunteer.
You will only answer questions you choose to answer. Of course, because you are drafting an answer on your own time, you will have a chance to double check your answer. If no attorney responds to a request after 30+ days, the request will be removed and an administrator will notify the user.
You may ask for additional information before responding to the user’s request. Then, the user will have a choice to respond to that request or not. The user and attorney have the ability to continuously communicate with one another regarding the user’s legal question, so long as the attorney does not categorize the question as “closed.” The user may also ask follow up questions about your answer, and you can respond. You just must always use the platform, and not have a separate phone call or meeting with the client.
Users will not know the name of the attorney who answers their questions unless any of the following apply:
- A client has made a specific request for the name of the attorney who replied to their question in connection to a potential claim; or
- It is required by a court of law.
Is it ethical to provide brief advice on this platform? What about signing retainer agreements? Taking only part of the case? What about conflicts checks?
Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2(b) permits limited scope representation with certain conditions, which this platform is designed to meet. The client signs a limited scope agreement as part of submitting their question. In additiona, Rule of Professional Conduct 6.5 specifically permits attorneys who are staffing a limited legal services program (like this one) to NOT check conflicts, unless the attorney recognizes that there is a conflict. For example, if the client posts a question about being sued by National Bank X, and you know that your firm represents National Bank X, you cannot select that question to answer. You do not need, however, to conduct a conflicts search to determine whether your firm represents National Bank X
Malpractice insurance is provided by the ABA for the legal guidance that you provide through the ABA Free Legal Answers Website. Malpractice insurance coverage is limited to liability for only those claims that are made against you in relation to the legal guidance you provided on ABA Free Legal Answers.
If a lawyer chooses to communicate with a client outside of the ABA Free Legal Answers Website for the purpose of taking the client’s case on a pro bono basis, lawyers are asked to contact Legal Access Alameda. Please note that the ABA does not provide malpractice insurance for your services beyond the legal guidance you provide on the FLA website.
You may choose to take on the client for full scope representation on your own, but you will have to have your own expert supervision and your own malpractice insurance. The ABA insurance will not apply. Also please note, you would have to create a new engagement letter.
By signing the Attorney Use Agreement, the attorney agrees to answer the client’s legal question on a pro bono basis. Furthermore, the attorney agrees not to solicit clients for commercial purposes. If the client wishes to send you payment in thanks, graciously decline.