Florida Free Legal Answers nears 16,000 responses
Florida Free Legal Answers is approaching 1,000 Bar member volunteers who have answered almost 16,000 questions since the ABA-sponsored program began in May 2017.
Bar Programs Division Assistant Director Frank Digon-Greer reported to the Pro Bono Legal Services Committee recently that participation by Florida residents and Bar members in the program remains strong, although the number of questions answered by lawyers has declined in recent months.
Free Legal Answers is an ABA program that allows states to recruit volunteer attorneys to answer online questions proposed by low-income Floridians who need help with a legal problem. The program allows attorneys to do pro bono work when they can fit it into their schedules and gives residents the ease of posing a question online without having to make a trip to an office.
Overall, Florida residents have asked 18,375 questions since the program started, Digon-Greer said, and 15,900 of those have been answered by volunteer attorneys, a response rate of 87%. The answered questions have been asked by 14,273 different users.
Among other participating states, the answer rate is between 70% to 75%, Digon-Greer said. For the past six months, an average of 489 questions have been posed, peaking at 585 in June.
Excluding September, the average response rate for the previous 6 months has been near 90%, but it dropped to 82% in August and 76% in September, which is a significant decline from the previous months .
“I’m going to reach out to the…ABA and see if other states are seeing a decline in participation,” Digon-Greer said.
When questions aren’t answered for 30 days, Digon-Greer said he removes the question from the site and contacts the users and provides them with other resources. He said the system has been upgraded so people who pose eviction or family law questions that may need a quick response are immediately given alternate resources.
The number of Bar members who have signed up to participate in Florida Free Legal Answers has reached 991, and Digon-Greer said he hopes to reach 1,000 by national Pro Bono Week, which runs October 24-30.