Lawyers' website answers questions

JONO GALUSZKA
Last updated 12:00 03/12/2012

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A former Palmerston North Girls' High School pupil has poured her passion for law into a website for people seeking free legal advice.

Maya Shino, who is now a solicitor for Russell McVeagh in Wellington, won an AMP scholarship earlier this year to launch LawSpot.org.nz.

The non-profit website allows New Zealanders to post legal questions and receive free answers from volunteer lawyers.

A database of answers is then listed on the website, under certain law categories, so people can look at it and save time instead of waiting for a reply.

Ms Shino said the idea for the website came about after she volunteered at the Wellington Community Law Centre, and saw how technology could help it and other law centres handle clients better.

"A lot of the questions [volunteers] get are the same or very similar questions, with quite a lot around employment law to tenancy disputes.

"Instead of spending half an hour answering the same questions, people can have a look in a second."

A web model also gave flexibility to fulltime lawyers who still wanted to volunteer, she said.

"They can answer these from home, or sometimes [at law centres] there isn't a line out the door, so they can answer online questions then."

Ms Shino said she worked closely with the Wellington Community Law Centre, which was supportive of the project.

"We brought the technology side to them, and they were really excited because they weren't very good in that area."

Online websites with qualified professionals answering queries were popular overseas, but New Zealand was "just catching on", she said.

Although the scholarship from AMP was helpful, a good portion of work on the website was done pro bono.

Ms Shino said she was also looking for a corporate sponsor to fund the cost of maintaining the website.

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- The Manawatu Standard

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