When the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA) issued a call for attorneys to volunteer for NJ Free Legal Answers, Michael Sawka, a solo practitioner in Pemberton, stepped up to the plate.
For the systems engineer who also practices law, volunteering to help provide free legal advice at NJ.FreeLegalAnswers.org was an easy choice. Sawka has been providing pro bono or low-cost legal work for years for landlord/tenant matters, post-divorce enforcement and small civil matters in the Browns Mills area in Burlington County.
Through NJ Free Legal Answers, state residents can ask about civil legal challenges and some family law matters they are facing and receive help from a volunteer attorney. The program builds on the NJSBA’s tradition of service during times of state and national emergencies, and is part of an American Bar Association project to help address the justice gap in the country.
The following is a Q&A with Michael Sawka.
What issues have you seen the most?
Landlord/tenant issues, some custody and child support questions and small civil matters. When COVID-19 started, someone wanted to know if they could get a refund from a hair salon that was refusing to refund pre-paid blowouts. Sometimes you have to let them know it wouldn’t be worth going to court, even small claims court.
What other questions have you been handling?
Most of it is counseling. Sometimes it’s guiding people where they should be going with their complaint. It’s not always a court-related legal complaint. I tell them if it’s not really a problem that requires an attorney, there are other avenues they should try first, because it can save them money. I try to guide them on lower cost or free ways first.
How does the platform work?
You create a profile and it includes subjects or issues that you want to be notified on. When people put in a question in those subject areas you get notified. You can pick and choose.
For more information or to volunteer, go to NJ.FreeLegalAnswers.org.