Wednesday, March 04, 2009

free legal advice on the web? yeah, right.

i stumbled across the answers and advice section on today.

it's like yahoo answers, but for legal questions. i'm seriously bothered by it, since it has a disingenuous premise, and is ultimately useless.

first of all, the site markets itself as "free legal advice from lawyers", but there appears to be no screening process to make sure that people who are answering the questions are actually lawyers. it looks like you can answer questions as long as you're registered for the site, and you don't have to be a licensed lawyer [much less a licensed lawyer in any given asker's jurisdiction] to start answering questions. that sounds like unauthorized practice of law to me.

secondly, there's something i find useless about people asking their legal questions online for all to see, other people answering them, and then allowing joe and jane blow to rate the answers. it's too cursory. a quick yahoo answers-style question, without any kind of ensuing conversation, is not going to unpack all the complexity that lurks in a legal question, and it's not going to provide any helpful legal advice. furthermore, assuming that the person answering is actually a lawyer, it's not going to give anyone the basis to make an educated assessment of the quality of the answerer's legal services.

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