FLORIDA.FREELEGALANSWERS.ORG GIVES LOW-INCOME FLORIDIANS GREATER ACCESS TO LEGAL RESOURCES
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 3, 2017
CONTACT: Mark Hohmeister; [email protected],
The Florida Bar
TELEPHONE: (850) 561-5764
NOTE: Legal aid is an option for low-income people with noncriminal issues. The best way for people to search for a local legal aid program is at www.FloridaLawHelp.org.
With the launch of a new virtual legal advice clinic, Florida Free Legal Answers, low-income Floridians now have a way to get their legal questions answered by a licensed attorney completely free of charge.
This cooperative effort between The Florida Bar and the American Bar Association leverages technology to help improve access to justice for those who would otherwise find it out of reach.
“Justice should not be restricted to only those who can afford it,” said Michael Higer, president of The Florida Bar. “As the great information equalizer, technology has the potential to help level the playing field by connecting citizens who have legal questions with those best able to answer them.”
According to Legal Services Corporation, the “justice gap” – the difference between the civil legal needs of low-income citizens and the resources available to meet those needs – continues to widen. Last year, 71 percent of low-income households experienced at least one civil legal problem, ranging from health care, housing conditions, disability access, veterans’ benefits to domestic violence. Many of these citizens are forced to go it alone without legal guidance.
Florida Free Legal Answers is accessible online 24/7, matching qualifying participants with a licensed attorney who can answer questions related to civil law. Topics may include family law matters such as divorce, child support, adoption and name change, as well as domestic violence, bankruptcy, consumer issues, education, employment, housing, workers’ compensation, wills and estate planning.
“The legal system can be a challenging maze to navigate for even the most educated and well-versed,” said Higer. “People often contact legal aid because they do not know anywhere else to turn. Many times, they do not need the full range of services from a lawyer but rather just need answers to a question or two. This program will provide folks in need with readily available lawyers who can answer their questions simply and efficiently.”
According to The Florida Bar, more than 500 attorneys have already signed up to participate in the program and volunteer their time on a pro-bono basis.
Here’s how Florida Free Legal Answers works:
● Go to https://florida.freelegalanswers.org to sign up and answer a few questions to see if you qualify to use the service. You must have an annual household income below 250 percent of federal poverty guidelines; have less than $6,000 in total assets; be at least 18 years old; and not be incarcerated. If you are not eligible, you will not be able to utilize this program and will receive a denial indication.
● After you register, you may ask a specific question about your non-criminal legal issue.
● You will receive an email telling you when your question has received a response.
● Log back in, see the response, and ask more questions if necessary. Attorneys can submit a single response or have a dialogue with the user through the site. Please note: The volunteer lawyers at Florida Free Legal Answers can't call you or represent you in court.
The information users provide is confidential, and the answers are not associated with the client’s name. Data will be collected only for data-sharing purposes. Attorneys will see only the information associated with a client’s legal issue.
Users will not know the name of the attorneys who answer their questions unless the attorneys choose to provide it, a client makes a specific request for the name of the attorney or it is required by a court of law. Volunteer attorneys will not write letters, make phone calls or file documents, or attend court proceedings.
Florida lawyers may enroll by visiting https://florida.freelegalanswers.org, clicking on “Volunteer Attorney Registration” and agreeing to the attorney agreement.
EDITORS: Please note The Florida Bar is not an association and "Association" is not part of our name. Proper reference is "The Florida Bar." Local bar organizations are properly termed "associations."