The Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission is pleased to announce the launch of Wisconsin Legal Advice Online (WLAO), a free online service that allows eligible Wisconsin residents to post legal questions for response by volunteer Wisconsin lawyers. Created by the Commission and sponsored by the State Bar’s pro bono program, WLAO is one way to make brief legal advice available to more Wisconsin residents.
WLAO is now recruiting volunteer attorneys to participate in this exciting and convenient way for lawyers to give back. Outreach to client communities will follow. Interested attorneys should visit the sign-up page to learn more about the program and to find answers to frequently asked questions.
WLAO only accepts civil (non-criminal) law questions. Some of the areas where legal questions can be posed include high demand topics like family (such as divorce, custody, placement, child support), consumer debt, and housing. But the broader list of question areas include topics such as tax, nonprofits and education. Lawyers who sign up to participate can select the questions that they want to answer and subscribe to be notified when new questions are posted in categories that they select.
WLAO merges key features of a traditional telephone hotline and a brief legal advice clinic into a website that is available anytime, anywhere, to both volunteer lawyers and clients.
Addressing the justice gap
Wisconsin has an ongoing challenge to bridge the vast gap between the legal help that its residents need and the resources available to them. For low income residents, the need is particularly acute, because staffed legal aid offices are stretched thin with chronically inadequate funding. Various groups are working diligently to address the lack of funding issue. In the meantime, there are smaller steps that can make the justice system more accessible.
That’s where WLAO comes in.
How it works
Clients go through the online screening process to establish that they are financially eligible to use the site, agree to the limited scope of the assistance provided, and are then able to post a legal question for participating volunteers. Volunteer lawyers can log in to the site anytime as well, select a question that they want to answer, and then respond when it is convenient.
The entire exchange takes place through the website – there is no expectation of any ongoing representation.
The site also helps attorneys keep track of their pro bono time so that they can qualify for the Wisconsin Pro Bono Honor Society.
Pro bono in your pajamas
Attorneys who want to volunteer should visit the sign-up page to learn more about the program and to find answers to frequently asked questions. Pajamas not required.