Missouri.FreeLegalAnswers.org on the leading edge of remote access to legal assistance
Before Missouri lawyers could have imagined legal proceedings via Webex or Zoom (with or without accidental cat filters) or the other safety precautions required due to an international pandemic, The Missouri Bar had partnered with the American Bar Association (ABA) to be on the leading edge of providing remote access to legal help to citizens in the state.
Since 2017, The Missouri Bar has worked with the ABA to administer Missouri.FreeLegalAnswers.org. This website hosts a free online legal clinic, allowing low to moderate-income Missourians to ask up to three non-criminal legal questions each year. Volunteer lawyers licensed in Missouri provide written answers for free through this service.
Over the last four years, more than 8,500 Missourians have registered through the website, which became even more critical as a means of providing access to justice for all Missourians as the number of COVID-19 cases began to rise precipitously in March 2020.
The ABA, recognizing that people would need additional assistance with questions related to the pandemic, expanded features of the service to allow for five questions per 12-month period instead of three and eased the income and asset limits for participation to allow more Missourians, especially those who lost their employment due to the pandemic, the ability to access necessary legal help.
Currently, there are nearly 200 lawyers registered as volunteers for Missouri.FreeLegalAnswers.org. Over the last year, approximately 170 questions related to COVID-19 were submitted through the website. More than 160 of those questions were answered for a 98% response rate. Most of the questions were related to employment or unemployment issues, but questions pertaining to landlord/tenant matters and family law were also submitted.
The Missouri Bar’s strategic initiative includes the goal of ensuring that all Missourians have equal access to justice. To learn more or to volunteer, visit Missouri.FreeLegalAnswers.org.