Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Online Advice No Substitute for Lawyer Free Counsel May Be Inaccurate, Inapplicable

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Online Advice No Substitute for Lawyer Free Counsel May Be Inaccurate, Inapplicable

Article excerpt

Can a soon-to-be ex-wife be forced to give back an heirloom belonging to the family she's leaving?

Can an arrest during a night of too much drinking be kept from appearing on a job-related background check?

Free legal advice on topics ranging from family law to estate planning can be obtained through the Internet.

But Web surfers beware: Information gathered while traveling the information superhighway may not apply to Florida law, and legal advice givers don't guarantee the accuracy of their information.

With the widespread use of computers, the Internet boasts an abundance of information on virtually every subject imaginable.

As the availability of information increases, consumers have to increase their obligation to protect themselves from abuses facilitated by that availability, said Will Hornsby, staff counsel in the American Bar Association's division for legal services.

When meeting an attorney in person, clients use several factors -- how professional the attorney and office appear, where the attorney attended school, how long the person's been practicing law -- to help assess the attorney.

The anonymity of the Internet takes those factors away and also makes it easy for someone to pretend to be an attorney or for a disbarred attorney to hand out legal advice without Web users knowing he's not licensed to practice law.

"If the person who's responsible for giving you information gives you any reason to question the validity of that information, then you ought not to rely on it," Hornsby said.

Web users can also be misled if an attorney's response to a question is written in a way that makes the Web user believe it's tailored to meet the needs of the person who asked it, said Lyrissa Lidsky, a professor who teaches legal ethics at the University of Florida's Law School.

The response can only meet the person's needs if the attorney giving the advice is licensed to practice in the web user's state. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.