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Ask Karla offers new way to do pro bono: Online and on your own time

Friday, June 22, 2018  
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Angie Wagenhals
Montana Legal Services Association

The Montana Legal Services Association is proud to introduce the next phase in its expansion of limited-scope pro bono opportunities. Launched on May 1, AskKarla.org is MLSA’s new online advice site that allows attorneys to anonymously answer civil legal questions posted by income-qualified clients on a secure online platform. It is an easy and effective way to do pro bono on an attorney’s own schedule.

In fact, the site is designed to make it as easy as possible for attorneys to do the type of pro bono work they want to do. Attorneys create an account and choose from a queue of questions on a variety of civil legal issues posted by client users. Attorneys can check cases out of the queue to review prior to providing an answer. Once an attorney finds a question they want to answer, it’s as easy as typing a response. As with all MLSA pro bono programs, MLSA provides volunteers with malpractice insurance and any support they need.

Most lawyers want to give back to our community with pro bono services but don’t have much time to volunteer. AskKarla.org allows lawyers to anonymously answer vetted civil legal questions posted by Montanans living in poverty. Best of all, attorneys can do this on their own schedule and in less than an hour. The 2018 Annual Pro Bono Report prepared by the Montana Supreme Court Statewide Pro Bono Program reports that 29 percent of respondents indicated that pro bono in the state would improve with an increase in opportunities for finite hour contributions. This feedback echoes what MLSA has long heard from volunteers. Montana attorneys are dedicated to pro bono as part of their practice but also lead active lives and maintain busy practices, making full representation pro bono cases difficult to take on. Using a Pro Bono Innovation Fund grant awarded by the Legal Services Corporation, MLSA has been busy developing limited-scope pro bono opportunities around the state in response to this feedback. AskKarla.org is the latest effort to increase opportunities to do limited scope around the state.

The site is named after the late Chief Justice Karla Gray to honor her long dedication to access to justice. Chief Justice Gray gave her all to championing the mission for equal justice for all Montanans. She believed that the most fundamental promise of our country, equal justice under the law, could be achieved only by assuring that every person who needs access to justice gets it.
AskKarla.org is an attempt to work toward that assurance of equal justice under the law. MLSA designed the site to be easy for attorneys to use and to be an accessible and helpful resource for clients. If you are interested in volunteering by providing advice over the site, please visit AskKarla.org and click the “Volunteer” button. You’ll create an account and will be given access to the queue of questions after MLSA verifies your account. If you have any questions about the site or how you can get involved, please contact MLSA Pro Bono Coordinator Angie Wagenhals at awagenha@mtlsa.org or call 406-442-9830 ext. 148.

Angie Wagenhals is the pro bono coordinator at Montana Legal Services Association.