Website offers attorneys an online pro bono opportunity

Issue March/April 2017 By Mike Vigneux

A new legal advice website, Mass Legal Answers Online (, 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 insurance.

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 Association.

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 Referral Service.

"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 Bono.

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 The 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."

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