May 25, 2016

Virtual Clinics for Online Pro Bono Help: Hurdling Barriers to Pro Bono

It’s easy to see the upside in Indiana Legal Answers. A web-based conduit for pro bono legal services designed by the Indiana Pro Bono Commission, the forum has the potential to increase pro bono access for clients in need and make it easy for time-strapped attorneys to fit volunteering into their schedules. However, as Faegre Baker Daniels pro bono manager Monica Fennell observed in an article she wrote for the America Bar Association’s Dialogue, that promise has not always delivered, and requests have gone unanswered.

“An interactive pro bono website may be too easy on volunteers,” Fennell wrote. “It’s out of sight, out of mind.[…] Because the virtual clinic can be done anytime and anywhere with internet access, it may be too easy to forget.”

To help remedy that problem, Fennell and fellow Faegre Baker Daniels attorneys hosted virtual clinics in the firm's Indianapolis and Fort Wayne offices.

“Conducting a virtual clinic solves the forgetfulness problem by bringing together attorneys to answer pro bono questions on the interactive website at one time and place,” Fennell said. “It was anticipated that staff support and lunch might garner volunteers. What was not anticipated was how much fun it would be.”

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