WYOMING — Wyoming Free Legal Answers (wyoming.freelegalanswers.org) is a virtual legal advice clinic that enables low-income Wyoming residents to obtain free advice about civil legal problems from volunteer attorneys. Since WFLA’s launch in August 2016, over 23 Wyoming-licensed attorneys have signed up to volunteer. This week, the volunteers hit a new milestone: they have now answered more than 200 questions on legal topics such as housing, family, consumer debt, and employment.
“At a time when civil legal aid programs in Wyoming turn away the majority of eligible cases due to limited resources, Wyoming Free Legal Answers provides another way for low-income residents to get legal advice—at a time and place of their choosing,” said Liz Hutchinson, Staff Attorney and Pro Bono Coordinator at Equal Justice Wyoming. “In a state as remotely populated as Wyoming, WFLA provides a service that is essential to reaching residents outside urban areas and those who do not have the transportation or child care to attend in-person legal advice clinics.”
Attorneys who wish to provide pro bono service can now do so whenever and wherever it is convenient. The last year has demonstrated that WFLA is a win-win: attorneys are able to give back to their communities, and low-income residents are getting the legal advice that they need. The successful implementation of WFLA brings the state closer to the Wyoming Access to Justice Commission’s goal of 100 percent access to assistance for essential civil legal needs for people in poverty.
“Having access to advice from a licensed Wyoming attorney is so important for people who have a legal problem,” said Angie Dorsch, Executive Director of Equal Justice Wyoming. “The 2017 Justice Gap Report released by the Legal Services Corporation found that 71% of low-income households experienced at least one civil legal problem within the last year, but that 86% of those problems received inadequate or no legal help. WFLA and the attorneys who volunteer are helping to close the justice gap in Wyoming.”
Wyoming Free Legal Answers is based on the walk-in clinic model where clients request brief advice and counsel about a specific civil legal issue from a volunteer lawyer. All communication between the client and the attorney takes place via a secure website.
Wyoming Free Legal Answers is part of the American Bar Association’s Free Legal Answers project, a nationwide initiative, and Equal Justice Wyoming administers the program within Wyoming.