American Bar Assocation Awards ME a Critical $10,000 Grant to Provide Free Legal Counsel
ME will become one of four states to pilot an online portal to provide free counsel in poor rural communities
PORTLAND, ME — June 7, 2017 — Due to the increasing difficulty of accessing pro bono legal help in rural communities, the American Bar Association has selected the State of ME to pilot an online portal through which free legal counsel will be provided to qualified applicants. The service will be provided online – either at home or from any one of ME’s libraries.
“Free Legal Answers” allows qualified users to log on to a secure portal and post their legal questions. The questions can then be reviewed and answered by pro bono attorneys who are registered on the site. In ME, this service will be futher developed to provide more extensive representation to those who most need it.
“ME’s most rural communities have little access to in-person, free legal clinics offered in larger cities,” says David Soley, a local attorney who applied ME for this grant. “This allows equal access to counsel regardless of geography.”
Soley and the Volunteer Lawyers Project won this $10,000 grant to kickstart the portal, engage the pro bono service of attorneys and train librarians throughout the state. In ME, three of the poorest communities include Cherryfield, Princeton and Lubec – all three have local libraries.
The Volunteer Lawyers Project started a soft launch of “Free Legal Answers” and is currently calling for volunteer attoneys to sign up.
“The ABA suggests that every practicing lawyer gives 50 pro bono hours per year as part of a longstanding professional code of ethics,” says Juliet Holmes-Smith, Executive Director at the Volunteer Lawyers Project. “This portal will make it easy for lawyers to volunteer and remove a barrier for those struggling with legal issues that are standing in the way of a better quality of life.”
Currenly, the site is open only for volunteers lawyers to sign up. It will be open to the general public in Fall of 2018.
If you are an attorney willing to volunteer hours, please sign up via: https://maine.freelegalanswers.org