Volunteer Attorneys – Frequently Asked Questions
- How does this service work?
- Who is eligible to use Kentucky Justice Online to obtain legal advice?
- What kinds of lawyers should participate?
- Navigating the Website and Selecting Questions to Answer
- What happens if a lawyer cannot answer a user’s question?
- Entering Hours
- What type of relationship exists between the client and lawyer?
- How do lawyers check for conflicts of interest?
- What about professional liability insurance coverage?
- Is there a confidentiality issue with client information/lawyer advice being housed on the internet?
- How do I contact the administrator with a question?
Kentucky Justice Online is based on the walk-in clinic or lawyer hotline model where clients request brief advice and counsel about a specific civil legal issue from a volunteer lawyer. Lawyers provide information and basic legal advice on a pro bono basis without any expectation of long-term representation. This is the type of limited legal assistance authorized by SCR 3.130(1.2)(c) and 3.130(6.5).
Kentucky residents who meet eligibility requirements (see Eligibility below) sign a User Agreement, create a username and password, post a request for legal advice or information and provide facts about their case that will help the lawyer answer the question. The lawyer may ask for additional information before responding to the user’s request, but the user will have a choice to respond to that request or not. Users will provide their name so that Attorneys can perform conflict checks. Users are informed that there is no guarantee that a question will be answered. If a question is not answered within 30 days, the user will receive an email from the website administrator informing them that we are unable to provide assistance. The user will also be provided with a list of additional resources.
Lawyers who would like to participate must create a username and password, provide contact information and their State Bar member number, sign a user agreement, and request approval from the website administrator. Before the lawyer’s account is activated, the website administrator checks to ensure the lawyer is licensed in Kentucky and is in good standing. Once a lawyer has been approved by the website administrator, the lawyer receives an email notification and can begin answering user questions.
Lawyers may log in at any time to review a list of user questions and select the one(s) they want to answer. A lawyer will have the opportunity to read the full question before deciding to take it from the list and answer it. Once a lawyer takes a question from the list, the lawyer has 3 days to answer it. The lawyer’s identity is not revealed to the user unless the lawyer decides to do so. Once a lawyer answers a question, the user will be able to ask follow up questions which may be answered at the lawyer’s discretion.
- Users must provide their name and county in order to request advice;
- Users must have a household income below 200% of the federal poverty level;
- Users may not request assistance with criminal law matters;
- Users agree to post no more than 3 legal questions per year.
All lawyers are welcome! While there are common types of questions that regularly arise at legal clinics, we need lawyers in many areas of practice to volunteer. We hope the website will appeal to lawyers who want to give back but have been unable to participate in traditional pro bono work due to family obligations, schedule or geographic location. We also hope to engage lawyers who already provide pro bono service and are willing to give more of their time to those who need it.
When your account has been approved by the website administrator, you will receive a notification email. To get started you will go to http://kyjustice.org and select “log in” at the top right side of your screen. After you enter your username and password, you will automatically be directed to a page that lists all of the open questions that have been posted for lawyers to answer.
To view an open question simply click on the link displayed under the “Subject” column for each open question. The client is asked to use this Subject field to briefly identify, in their own words, what the question is about (for example, eviction, divorce, bankruptcy, etc.). This tool allows volunteer lawyers to quickly scan the list of open questions and decide which ones they would like to view in greater detail.
Once you have clicked on the question subject, you will then be able to view the entire question without agreeing to answer it. When you have finished reading the complete question, use the back button on your browser to return to the open question screen and either take the question or continue browsing the open questions.
When you have found a question you’d like to answer, click the “Take” button to the left of the question. A pop-up window will appear asking you to confirm that you have no conflicts with the client or adverse party. Once you have checked the box to confirm that you have no conflicts, the question will then appear under the “Taken Questions” tab at the top of the screen. This screen allows you to quickly see which questions you have taken and track the activity on each. Please respond within 3 days of taking a question. If you fail to respond within 3 days, the question will be moved back into the queue.
Once you have taken the question, you will be able to reply to the client and provide an answer or ask follow up questions. The client will not know your identity unless you choose to provide it. If you ask the client a question, you will receive an email when the client responds and a prompt to log back into the website to respond.
You can view the questions you have taken at any time by clicking on the "Taken Questions" tab. To view questions you have previously taken and closed, click on the “Closed Questions” tab.
A lawyer might be unable to answer a question for a number of reasons. There may be a conflict of interest, users may fail to respond to requests for additional information, or the question may fall outside the lawyer’s area of expertise. If a lawyer determines that (s)he cannot answer a question, the lawyer may contact the site administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org to place the question back into the queue so that another volunteer lawyer may try to assist the user. The lawyer should let the administrator know the reason why the question needs to be placed back in the queue.
Each time you attempt to log out of the website, you will be prompted to enter the time you have spent researching and answering questions. You may log your time in 15-minute increments. We do this to help us measure one aspect of the impact that your donation of time is having in Kentucky. You may view your hours at any time by clicking on “My Profile” at the top of the page.
When a user submits a question and receives an answer from a lawyer, there will be a lawyer/client relationship formed between that client and the lawyer who responds. That relationship, however, will be limited in scope and duration as described in the use agreements for both users and lawyers. The representation will be limited to providing an answer to the legal question and will not involve any continuing representation of the client beyond the act of providing such an answer. The lawyer will provide short-term, limited legal services to the client without expectation by either the lawyer or the client that the lawyer will provide continuing representation in the matter. The assistance is provided on a pro bono basis without fee or expectation of a fee. Both the eligible users and lawyers must consent to the limited nature of this relationship both as to scope and duration as indicated when they accept the terms of the use agreement. Eligible users and lawyers who do not accept the terms of the use agreement will not be allowed access to the site.
Your participation in Kentucky Legal Advice Online is governed by the Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct, including SCR 20:1.2(c) and 6.5. Under Rule 6.5, because of the short term limited legal services offered through this website and because of the involvement of the Kentucky Access to Justice Commission as the primary sponsor, some rules on conflicts of interest do not apply to a lawyer's participation in this project. Instead, the only conflicts of interest that would preclude a lawyer from answering a question for an eligible user of this website are conflicts of interest that the lawyer actually knows of at the time that they receive or answer a client’s question. This means that the possibility exists, and the clients agree that they understand, that a lawyer who answers a question, or another lawyer with whom they practice in a firm, may actually be representing other parties with an interest in the question (the lawyer may simply be unaware of the conflict at the time the brief legal assistance is provided). The client’s name will be provided to the lawyer so that the lawyer can make sure not to answer the question if the lawyer knows that (s)he would have a conflict of interest. If, based on the information the client provides, whether user name or any details of the question, the lawyer actually knows of a conflict of interest, the question will be referred to another volunteer lawyer.
You should enter the name of the users you assist into your firm’s conflict database. They are your client, so you would not be able to handle a matter adverse to them in the future. However, under Rule 6.5, your conflict is not imputed to other lawyers in your firm (only you would have a conflict, not the other lawyers in your firm).
Volunteer lawyers who provide brief advice and counsel via Kentucky Justice Online will be covered by professional liability insurance maintained by the State Bar of Kentucky’s Pro Bono Program through the NLADA Insurance Program. If a malpractice claim arises, we can trace each answered question back to the attorney who answered it. The State Bar’s Pro Bono Program may have to contact lawyers participating in the program from time to time related to this insurance coverage.
Is there a confidentiality issue with client information/lawyer advice being housed on the internet?
This site is designed to protect client privacy. The program is administered through a secure website that encrypts your communications and limits access to registered users. Confidentiality will be maintained since only the website administrator has access to content between a client and a lawyer. Information available to the website administrator and the lawyer responding to a client request shall remain confidential, subject to the limitations of the Privacy/Confidentiality Policy. However, client requests for legal advice and the response of the lawyers participating in Kentucky Justice Online may be maintained in a secure database for review in order to measure the effectiveness of the project. Steps will be taken to maintain the security of this database and it will only be utilized by the administrator but an absolute guarantee of security is not possible when using the internet and internet based systems. For each visitor to the Webpage the web server automatically recognizes only the user’s domain name. This is the information that is collected for statistical purposes. Aggregate information is collected on the pages user’s access or visit on this website. The information collected is used to improve the content of the Web page and is not shared with other organizations for commercial purposes. Information may be disclosed when legally required at the request of government authorities conducting an investigation, to verify or enforce compliance with the policies governing our website and applicable laws or to protect against misuses or unauthorized use of our website.
If you have a question or run into a technical problem with the site, you may contact the administrator by email at email@example.com