Alaska Legal Services Corporation, Alaska Court System, and Alaska Bar Association will have a free legal clinic on Monday, January 18th. (Photo by Skip Gray / 360 North)
Due to COVID-19, this year’s Free Alaskan Legal Clinic will operate differently and will likely address issues related to the pandemic.
The MLK Free Legal Help Day event on Monday is organized by Alaska Legal Services Corporation, the Alaska Court System, and the Alaska Bar Association. The event is aimed at low- and middle-income Alaskans who cannot afford to hire lawyers.
“Voluntary service, although important all year round, as a nation we come together on MLK Day as a day, not a day off. And the (Alaska Bar Association) thinks it’s important that we attend, ”said Krista Scully, pro bono director at the Alaska Bar Association.
For the past 11 years, attorneys may have personally answered questions at the local courthouse. Not this year.
Scully says they’re using a nationwide call center this time. Volunteer attorneys answer calls on civil law issues such as family law, public assistance, labor law, estate law, estate planning, and tenant issues. You can also refer people to another agency that can better help them with their problems.
“One of the most difficult problems is that users are only navigating a system that they are not familiar with. And lawyers are so good at listening and then unraveling what it looks like to move forward on something that feels incredibly overwhelming to a person, ”Scully said.
Ben Hofmeister, president of the Alaska Bar Association, expects Alaskans unable to pay their rent because they lost their jobs during the pandemic.
“I would imagine that there will be a lot of questions about housing this year. That will probably be a big problem when you consider what happened to evictions and eviction moratoriums in the past year, ”said Hofmeister.
The MLK Free Legal Help Day takes place on Monday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. The call center number is 844-263-1849.
Scully says they will only have a limited number of volunteer attorneys and asks Alaskans to be patient while dialing. Volunteers cannot answer questions about criminal matters.
In addition to the Monday clinic, there is a virtual law clinic where any Alaskan can sign up and ask volunteer attorneys questions about civil law issues. Scully says the website will stay open all year round.