A new legal advice website, Mass Legal Answers Online (www.masslao.org),
provides attorneys with a convenient and easy way to provide pro
bono assistance to low-income populations.
Individuals who are deemed income-eligible can register on the
site and post a question on any civil legal matter. Participating
attorneys log in and provide answers to the posted questions on a
pro bono basis.
Launched in November, the site is part of the American Bar
Association's Free Legal Answers project, a national effort to
provide online legal assistance to some of the most vulnerable
populations. First piloted in Tennessee in 2011, the project is
open to any ABA jurisdiction. The ABA provides technical support
for the national network of sites in addition to malpractice
More than 500 clients have created accounts on the site in
Massachusetts, and more than 130 attorneys have signed up to answer
questions. The local site is managed by the Massachusetts Law
Reform Institute, but was launched as part of a statewide effort,
including the participation of the Massachusetts Bar
The MBA has been a key resource for the development of the site
based on its experience facilitating a successful monthly
Dial-A-Lawyer program for more than 25 years. The MBA is
represented on the site's advisory committee, and the Massachusetts
Bar Foundation helps provide financial support. When client
questions posted to the site require further consultation with an
attorney, one of the main referral sources is the MBA's Lawyer
"The Mass. Bar [Association] has been an integral part of making
this a successful project," said Rochelle Hahn, co-director of the
Massachusetts Legal Websites Project at MLRI. "The site allows
attorneys from everywhere in the state to help clients from
everywhere in the state."
The site has also been endorsed by the state's Access to Justice
Commission and the Supreme Judicial Court's Committee on Pro
Participating attorneys can decide what questions to answer and
when to answer them based on their schedule, and they can sign up
to follow questions on a particular area of law. MBA members can
volunteer for this pro bono project by signing up at
greatest need is for attorneys with experience in family law,
housing rights and debt collection.
"People are often so overwhelmed by legal issues, they don't
even know where to start," said Hahn. "Just a few minutes of an
attorney's time can really make a big difference."