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Is it Safe to Find Legal Advice Online

The answer is obviously more difficult than a simple “yes” or “no” since internet counsel, like all advice, varies in quality and because people utilize online sources for a variety of reasons. Legitimate sources can help you clarify your legal needs, however, there are some things to keep in mind when sourcing legal advice online.

The Internet is a terrific location to find discrete bits of knowledge, such as the answer to the query “What documents do I need to fill out in order to register an LLC?” 

However, if you’re considering whether to sue someone and you’re looking for guidance on what to do, the internet will be, at most, a great beginning point for a much larger effort that will likely involve consultation with other sources, including attorneys. 

In light of this, here are some considerations for making the most of online legal resources. 

Advice is Not the Same as Information 

Even if authored by an attorney, the majority of internet legal literature is general in nature. The purpose of blog posts, articles, and “how-to” guides are to introduce a topic, not to provide specific advice on how to handle a specific issue. Legal information that is not specific to your situation or requirements should not be mistaken for advice on how to proceed according to

Some websites allow users to ask specific questions and have actual attorneys respond, which is somewhat preferable because the response is tailored to your question. However, authors to these sites will typically distinguish between “opinion” and “advice” since limiting professional liability is critical if you are not yet a client. 

Track Down The Source

When reading legal information online, the question most people will ask is, “was this authored by a real lawyer?” It’s true that many blogs and websites dealing with legal issues are authored by non-lawyers. It is always prudent to know the source of the information you are reading. 

However, even if the author is a lawyer, you should not consider their words gospel. As stated previously, excellent advice, in general, is not necessarily good counsel for you. Second, attorneys have vastly varied areas of competence; merely passing the bar test does not qualify them to assist you with any legal situation. A paralegal who has worked on a large number of cases relevant to your research issue is likely to be more knowledgeable than a lawyer who has little to no real-world experience dealing with cases relevant to your inquiry. 

Your Case, Your Call 

The topic of whether you should have faith in the legal advice you find online hinges on the word “trust.” 

In reality, even in the “real world,” unless you are a paying client, the level of detail with which an attorney will answer your questions may be no greater than what you would find in a generic online post. This is because attorneys are reluctant to provide legal advice to individuals who are not yet clients. 

However, creating trust is not a perfectly rational process. Even though the information we want may be obtained online, the majority of individuals are more likely to establish trust while interacting with another person than when gazing at a computer screen. This is because we assume — correctly or not — that face-to-face contact enables us to make accurate assessments of a person’s trustworthiness.

The question of whether to trust legal content found online has less to do with the inherent quality of web-based information and more to do with your own preferences when dealing with legal matters because whether you are reading a website or walking through an office door, it will always come down to using your best judgment to make the most of the resources available to you.

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