Public Interest Law Initiative

Illinois Free Legal Answers for Civil Appeals

Illinois Free Legal Answers for Civil Appeals operates as a virtual legal advice clinic for civil legal issues where low-income Illinoisans can submit a question about their civil appeal. Volunteer lawyers then log onto the site at their convenience and answer questions waiting in the queue. This new initiative allows for questions to be submitted about civil appeals – the first-ever free legal help desk for appeals in Illinois. The program is expected to launch in fall 2020.

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A project of the American Bar Association, Free Legal Answers was created to increase access to advice and information about non-criminal legal matters for those who cannot afford legal assistance. It is now active in 41 jurisdictions within the United States, including Illinois.

HOW DOES ILLINOIS FREE LEGAL ANSWERS FOR CIVIL APPEALS WORK?

Clients who meet financial eligibility requirements ask questions about their appeal online. Volunteer attorneys can then see the questions, choose those they feel qualified to answer and submit a response. The client can attach files or images to their post including the final order or judgment that they are appealing and should note if they have an upcoming deadline for their appeal. Users will select “Civil Appeals” category so that the question is properly classified. While PILI will be able to see who answered questions, attorneys will remain anonymous to clients and are not expected to work on the case further.

WHY IS THIS A GOOD PRO BONO OPPORTUNITY?

Illinois Free Legal Answers for Civil Appeals provides a way for attorneys to volunteer their time in the way that best fits their schedule. They can choose where and when to log-in and which questions to answer. This initiative is also the only appellate-specific help desk in Illinois to assist self-represented litigants with their civil appeal. It provides attorneys a pro bono opportunity with civil appeals without having to take on a full case. Volunteer attorneys can also track their pro bono hours through the platform. This could also be a great opportunity for new practitioners to research rules and learn appellate procedures. Volunteer attorneys who provide brief advice and counsel through the website will be covered by professional liability insurance maintained by the ABA.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO ASK QUESTIONS ON THE SITE?

Adults who have met financial eligibility guidelines, are not currently incarcerated, and are not requesting assistance with criminal appeals. Before users are allowed to request legal advice, they will be asked questions to establish eligibility.

WHO CAN VOLUNTEER?

Any lawyer who is registered as active and authorized to practice with the ARDC, including those with house counsel status, can volunteer by registering at: il.freelegalanswers.org. For Illinois Free Legal Answers for Civil Appeals, we are seeking attorneys with appellate experience to start answering questions once the program launches in the fall of 2020. If you are from a law firm or corporation and believe this may be of interest to multiple colleagues, one possibility is to organize a Legal Answers Clinic.

Additionally, those with inactive or retired status and out-of- state licensed attorneys can volunteer under Supreme Court Rule 756 by filling out the first page of this form and sending it to info@pili.org. PILI staff will then complete the second page as the sponsoring entity and submit it to the ARDC and let you know when we have a response. Response time will vary and this must be done annually.

HOW DO I VOLUNTEER?

If you are interested in volunteering with Illinois Free Legal Answers for Civil Appeals, complete the form below. We anticipate the official launch of this program in the fall of 2020. For more information or if you have any questions, contact Brent Page by email or at 312-832-5128.

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