The Virginia State Bar has announced that it has teamed up with the American Bar Association (ABA) to develope a website that will answer legal questions, for free, for folks who cannot otherwise afford legal services. While that sounds good in theory, the website will be competing against a host of similar websites, most of which won't make you jump through the hoops the Virginia State Bar site will.
So we ask: why do it?
According to the Virginia State Bar website, Virginia.FreeLegalAnswers.org will allow low-income Virginians to ask legal questions in a private forum and have the quesions answered by volunteer Virginia lawyers. Users will need to meet financial eligibilty requirements first. The answers will by given by anonymous lawyers.
Here's our view: Somewhere, somehow, this is costing money to create and service, yet this "need" is already filled by sites like Avvo.com, JustAnswer.com, LawGuru.com, and a host of others. Avvo, for example, has over 250,000 active lawyers on its platform, answers legal questions every 5 seconds and has already cataloged 8 million questions and answers. Moreover, the questions are answered by lawyers who are not anonymous and most have been publicaly rated so that consumers can make intelligent decisions about who to contact for further information.
Our own BenGlassLaw VIP program gets you actual live meetings, answers; referrals to lawyers who can solve problems, and a whole host of other benefits (and you don't have to reveal your income levels!)
Although the Virginia State Bar has not formally announced its rules, if its anything like what Alabama has already done with the ABA associated web portal, it will first require the following information before you can post a question:
- your age
- county where you live
Then, you can use the Alabam "ask a question" web site only if all of these are true for you:
- Your income is low for a family the size of yours. Some kinds of income don’t count.
- Your cash, checking account, savings account, stocks or bonds are worth less than $5,000.
- You aren’t locked up in jail or prison.
- Your legal problem isn’t something you yourself can go to jail for.
- You haven't already hired a lawyer to help you with your legal problem.
Amazingly, the Alabama site requires consumers to list the in income of everyone in the house. It also requires users to list their real names.
All of this will slow down the flow of legal information from lawyers to consumers.
It will be interesting to see whether anyone actually uses the website with so many other no-hassle sites available to any consumer to use and get answers from and know who they are getting answers from!