A New Way to Do Pro Bono in Washington State
If you’re like many of the attorneys I know, you want to do pro bono work, but it can be hard to find the time. Most lawyers are busy, with important responsibilities to current clients, families and friends. If this describes you, good news: a new way to serve low-income clients has arrived in Washington. It’s called Washington Web Lawyer (WaWL).
WaWL is a website where low-income clients can post civil legal questions and pro bono attorneys can log on from anywhere, day or night, and answer client questions. There is no expectation that the attorney will provide any other service other than answering the question. The idea for WaWL began with the WSBA Pro Bono and Public Service Committee (formerly the Pro Bono and Legal Aid Committee) and is modeled after Online Tennessee Justice.
Washington is one of a growing number of states launching this web-based tool. Here are five reasons you should get involved.
- Do pro bono anytime, anywhere. One of my favorite things about WaWL is that I can log on for a few minutes and answer one client question, or take more time and answer several. WaWL makes it easy for me to share my knowledge and experience. I like that I get to choose the questions and the site is easy to use. I can login whenever I have some time and access to the Internet. Late night, weekends, early mornings, or while waiting for a doctor appointment: any spare time is time I can use to give advice to clients who desperately need it. In a matter of a few minutes, I can type out a response to questions that seem straightforward for me, but would be confusing to a non-lawyer.
- Help low-income and rural Washington. Like many attorneys, I went to law school to help others. We know from the 2015 Civil Legal Needs Study that 7 of 10 low-income households will face more than one civil legal crisis this year. With pressing legal needs, low-income clients can’t hire an attorney and so most legal problems will go unaddressed. That gap widens in rural WA, where there are fewer lawyers and scarcer legal services.
- You’re covered by free malpractice insurance. Attorneys are covered by malpractice insurance through Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association Volunteer Legal Services Program. WaWL provides an online support forum, support resources and access to video trainings for pro bono attorneys.
- Earn up to 24 CLE credits. Beginning Jan. 1, 2016, attorneys can report up to 24 hours of pro bono service over three years for CLE credits! WaWL simplifies reporting by keeping track of your time each time you log off.
- Access free CLE trainings. You can access free online CLE trainings on civil legal topics, specifically geared towards serving low-income households. These trainings are available to members who volunteer with a Qualified Legal Service Provider.