Baker Donelson Reinvests In ABA's Free Legal Answers

By Matt Perez | January 19, 2024, 4:26 PM EST ·

Baker Donelson announced on Friday a monetary and resource investment into the American Bar Association's Free Legal Answers clinic, which the law firm helped establish a decade ago.

The American Bar Association's Free Legal Answers is a virtual clinic designed to increase access to advice on non-criminal legal matters, specifically for people who cannot afford an attorney.

Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz PC said Friday it would provide three technicians to work over a six-month period to rewrite and update the backend code for the clinic's website, as well as improve its data security. Additionally, the firm will donate $255,000 to allow the ABA to continue maintenance of the site.

"The ABA is dedicated to expanding access to justice and is proud to partner with Baker Donelson to provide the ABA Free Legal Answers platform to the public and to lawyers seeking to provide pro bono legal services," Mary Smith, the ABA's current president, said in a statement.

Free Legal Answers grew from a virtual legal advice clinic spearheaded by longtime Baker Donelson shareholder Buck Lewis when he was serving as president of the Tennessee Bar Association. Following its adoption by several states, Baker Donelson and the ABA teamed up to develop a national program.

Through the clinic's website, users post civil legal questions for attorneys, as well as immigration and federal veterans' questions. Attorney volunteers, who must be authorized to perform pro bono work in their states, can then select questions to answer; users are emailed responses.

"This partnership is a key piece of our multifaceted approach to democratize legal services and champion diverse programs aimed at narrowing the justice gap," Smith said. "Since launching the platform in 2016, more than 13,000 attorneys have joined the site, and more than 330,000 questions have been posted by people seeking help with legal issues."

Along with the firm's donation, Free Legal Answers is supported by the American Arbitration Association, AT&T, Entergy, FedEx Ground, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Pilot Company and State Farm.

Baker Donelson ranked as the 78th-largest U.S. law firm on last year's Law360 400 list, with around 650 total attorneys and 310 partners in the country.

--Editing by Scott Russell.

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