The Law Blog of Oklahoma

How to Avoid Bad Legal Advice

Posted: Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Generally speaking, people would not be willing to take professional advice from a non-professional. In most cases, you would not ask your plumber to diagnose your medical condition any more than you would ask your doctor to fix your leaky toilet. When it comes to getting an important job done right, you go to the right professional for the job.

Now, this can get complicated in our world of quick and easy answers and instant gratification. We plug our symptoms into an online symptom checker, and suddenly we've self-diagnosed our headache as an inoperable brain tumor rather than the tension headache it really is. We've watched a YouTube video on toilet repair, and suddenly we've got a disassembled toilet and a geyser in the master bathroom.

The same can be said of legal advice, which almost every one is willing to give, whether or not they have any experience in the legal profession.

Here's an example: Reddit contains an entire subreddit called "legaladvice," in which users can seek answers to their legal questions. Reddit offers a disclaimer stating that the subreddit is, "A place to ask simple legal questions. Advice here is for informational purposes only and should not be considered final or official advice. See a local attorney for the best answer to your questions."

That may be the only good advice on the page--consult a local attorney. After all, you have no idea who is answering your legal questions otherwise. Even if the internet advice you get does come from a lawyer, he or she may not be familiar with the laws in your state, he or she may not specialize in the field of law with which you need help, and he or she is definitely not acquainted with all the details of your case from the paragraph you typed seeking help.

In fact, The Concourse by Deadspin features an article showing exactly what can go wrong when you ask the interwebs for legal advice: 

A man came to the Legal Advice subreddit and asked for help finding a divorce lawyer. He was told, "You don't have to hire the best or most expensive attorney. You need to consult with the top family attorneys in town. The lawyer cannot represent your ex to be if you've discussed your marriage with them. It's a conflict of interest. Read up on it, there are a few tricks you can pull to help even the playing field."

The man followed that advice and booked consultations with as many as 30 divorce lawyers in an effort to prevent his wife from being able to find an attorney. 

It backfired.

The man wrote, "I just got hit with a motion for attorneys fees saying that what I did was abuse of process, an attempt to deprive and interfere with justice, bad faith, and a bunch of other stuff. And that I have to pay part of her attorney fees because I made it more expensive for her."

Instead of learning his lesson about getting legal advice from strangers on the internet, the man came back to the subreddit and asked for help getting out of  new predicament.

Everywhere you look, you can find bad legal information:

"You have the right to . . . "

"The cops can't . . . "

"It is illegal to . . ."

"It is legal to . . . "

"You should always . . ."

"You should never . . . "

If you want to avoid bad legal advice--and you DO want to avoid bad legal advice--then don't get legal counsel from anyone other than an attorney qualified to practice law in the field for which you need representation. In other words, don't get legal advice for your divorce from a criminal defense lawyer, and don't get a personal injury lawyer to represent you in your criminal case.

Everyone will have an opinion about what you should do--your family, your friends, your co-workers. But remember, even if they have been in a similar situation, your case has unique variables that do not apply to their case. The law is constantly evolving, and what worked in their case may not even be valid in yours. And when you take to the internet for legal advice, you're opening a Pandora's box of bad counsel.

Most attorneys offer a free initial consultation. Take advantage of that. Talk to a lawyer about your case. If you are not comfortable with that attorney, find another one. Don't let bad legal advice jeopardize your case.


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