Free Legal Answers surpasses the 10,000-client mark
Florida’s online legal clinic, Free Legal Answers, has reached another milestone.
According to the latest monthly report, Free Legal Answers surpassed the 10,000-client mark in October, serving 10,017 low and no-income Florida residents since it went live in May 2017.
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped volunteer attorneys from maintaining a 93% answer rate, even as it spurs more requests for help, said Francisco-Javier Digon-Greer, the Bar’s assistant director of programs.
“We did have an increase in questions asked, 483 last month, and we had 524 questions asked in October,” he said. “We finally broke the 500 mark. Our next goal is to break the 600 mark.”
Between March 1 and October 31, the program served nearly 3,000 clients, according to the report. During the same period, the program logged 3,487 questions and lawyers answered 3,323 of them, for a 95% answer rate, the report shows.
The most frequently asked questions involve family law and landlord tenant matters.
By the end of this year, when a federal ban on evictions expires, Digon-Greer expects Free Legal Answers and other legal clinics to be swamped with requests for help.
“I anticipate for November we will have another 400 plus questions asked,” Digon-Greer said. “Based on this data, I truly anticipate that legal aid and other not-for-profit legal resources will be overwhelmed in the coming months.”
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the courts to switch to mostly remote proceedings, Free Legal Answers was showing Florida lawyers the benefits of digital practice.
The program allows lawyers to answer questions anonymously any time of day or night, while earning credit toward their pro bono reporting requirements. Lawyers get to choose questions from various categories, and they learn just enough information about the client to avoid conflicts of interest.
Clients are limited to questions about civil matters, must meet income restrictions, and must not be incarcerated. The current income restriction is 400% of the federal poverty rate, or $51,000 for an individual or $104,000 for a family of four.
Over the life of the program, only a handful of clients have misrepresented their income, Digon-Greer said.