Jono Galuszka at Stuff reports:
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.”
This is a great initiative. I’ve had a look at the website and already some good Q+A there. Some examples:
- Can I terminate a fixed term contract with a gym that has been sold?
- What is the liability of a petrol station when one of its attendants damages the engine of a car?
- Can I remove someone else’s property from my house after they have failed to remove it themselves?
- Can employers discriminate against you based on having tattoos?
- A tree on my neighbour’s property is stopping the sun coming onto my property during the day. Can I make him cut it down, or do it myself?
- Can a prospective employer ask me if I have ever laid a personal grievance against an employer?
Over time this could become a hugely valuable resource. I also like how it makes it easy for lawyers to provide answers. You could get senior partners down to law clerks providing advice. Of course it is generic advice, and you may need to get specific advice on a specific situation. But for many people, just the generic advice will be very useful.