Free, excellent, generally applicable legal advice from a real lawyer

Hire a lawyer of your own!

I know folks have questions and worry about paying a lot of money to a lawyer when we J.D.s at the SDMB have all the answers, but please, you need to hire your own lawyer.

As others have pointed out, we probably aren’t allowed to practice where you live, so it would be unethical to give you advice.

Also, we can’t give advice because there is no reasonable way to make sure that we don’t have a conflict of interest (remote as the possibility may be).

Don’t get insulted, but laypeople don’t always understand enough to fully describe the problem - lawyers need access to your books & records, and we need to be able to call you up and ask questions periodically.

Anyway, you can probably get decent representation (at least an idea of where you need to go) for a few hundred dollars. Generally, lawyers don’t charge right from the get-go, so you should be able to call up for a brief phone consultation without charge. Try to get a young associate to do the bulk of the work on your case, if possible - you’ll get a lower rate, but the associate has the support of more experienced lawyers, so you’ll still get good representation.

Depending on your situation, pro bono lawyers or clinic lawyers might be available - do a little investigating. For instance, my law school offered free tax advice every year.

Finally, pro se is a bad idea. Pro se defendants are eminently annoying to all legal professionals, who are used to a (relatively) smooth-running system and a certain detachment from the emotional issues of a case. As others have pointed out, even if you are the best pro se defendant ever, you are liable to get upset, not know procedures, and generally throw a monkey wrench into the process which irritates everyone, including the judge.

I mean all this with respect - the most intelligent people can be stymied by the legal system, and even lawyers who get personally involved in suits hire lawyers to represent them.

Is this in response to another thread or is this just mundane and pointless?

GolfWidow, take a look in General Questions and you should get the idea. There’s currently no less than five threads asking for legal advice, and I believe there are one or two others open in other fora as well.

But Aeryn, I was always taught that the best way to get good, trustworthy legal advice was from anonymous strangers on the internet. And don’t all of you know all the laws of all 50 states, DC, and Canada? :wink:

I feel for ya, hon. This isn’t the same league, but my hubby is a computer guy and we can’t go anywhere without people either asking computer questions or wanting him to fix their computer for free. Hello?!?

Or try
The moderator is a Georgia judge, and there are a number of lawyers there that will try to offer advice. Of course, most often the advice is “get a lawyer”.

I personally am not happy with how difficult it is to act pro se. The system should not be as obfuscated as it is, and it takes the power to act out of the hands of the poor. As is, any dispute that comes up is ging to take hundreds of dollars no matter how minor.

I can just see that in real life: “I’m a lawyer defending another lawyer in a lawsuit against a lawyer.” All right, which bright mind here can think of a joke with that punchline? is lawyers giving you advice wherever you are…thus, Im not to sure about what you said AerynSun.

Um, don’t answer them. That seems easy enough. You can’t blame someone for asking. I think a lot of times they are looking for instant comfort in a hard situation or a second opinion. If you don’t like people asking, don’t answer them or send them a link to an on-line law site.


I just used this site. Got a very prompt reply.Not what I wanted to hear, but I had been looking for something like this. I was considering posting my question here, glad I didn’t :slight_smile:

Oh, phooey! You mean all the medical, legal, marital, computer and pyschoanalytic advice here has been a steaming pile of caca?

(Actually some of the computer tips etc. have kicked!)

See your point, though, and it’s well taken. It’s one thing to shoot the shit on a message board, but quite another to practice a profession. It’s one thing to offer a legal, medical, plumbing, etc. perspective but it doesn’t substitute for The Real Thing.

It’s a fine line, but crossing from general to specific gets dicey. This concept has been discussed before in slightly different contexts (Satan, IIRC, about posters as qualified therapists, etc.) but there is as qualitative difference between offering an educated snippet of info and “practicing online”.

(Disclaimer: if I mangled or misquoted the thread cited, it’s solely due to my foggy memory and laziness in pulling it up to check.)


I told Ayesha once a long time ago to smack the side of her CPU to get it to stop making noise. It has never recurred. Behold the power of internet computer advice!

That was my point. Thank you Zette. Also, the legal questions seem to be mostly in General Questions so I didn’t understand why this thread was started in MPSIMS.

I do not think anyone should expect to get any kind of professional advice for free, whether online or IRL. And this for several reasons, the most obvious is that people make a living charging for this advice. They had to study for years to be able to give this advice. Also, by giving advice they incur in certain responsibility that it will be up to a certain standard. You get what you pay for. If you pay for good advice and you don’t get it, you have a case against that person. But free good advice? As Allan Sherman put it: “It costs nothing and it’s worth the price”. Not to mention that a person need to have a good and deep knowledge of the problem. You cannot diagnose complex legal or technical or medical problems from a one paragraph post.

Also I consider it very rude when someone corners me at a party to ask technical computer questions. I feel like saying “I make a living charging $60 an hour for that kind of thing so please call me during work hours and we can discuss it”.

Having said that I consider acceptable to ask general and brief questions like:

To a lawyer: I have a real estate problem which I think might require some legal advice. Do you think I should find an attorney who specializes in that field or will a general one do? (The lawyer can then ask you a bit more if he feels like it and recommend someone)

To a doctor: I have this mole which I am concerned about. What do you think is the best way to deal with it? Should I go to a dermatologist first? What tests do you think he might do?

In other words, make it brief and let the professional ask more questions if he feels like it but give him the option of giving you some very generic advice without asking further.

Ah, good old “percussive maintenance.” doesn’t always work, but it’s ALWAYS satisfying.

It’s not an issue for me, since people at parties don’t typically approach me with their aerospace engineering problems, but as a rule, I hate when people can’t socialize without discussing work-related stuff. I’ve got a friend who’s an attorney, and we talk about music and travels. My therapist friend and I generally have goofy conversation threads with varied tangents. And I absolutely refuse to discuss anything work-related with my nurse friend. Even when I meet new folks, I try to avoid asking what they do for a living - I’d rather know where they grew up or what hobbies they enjoy. But maybe that’s just me…

One more thing- A lot of people post law/health questions on the web because they’re scared. They want someone- anyone to give them a little hope. They can’t wait until tomorrow morning to see the results of the breast exam they got- they want to know “Hey- has anyone ever found a lump that looks like this and lived?” I communicated through e-mail with a member of this board who was very worried about a family member who was facing surgery that I had. Thank God they didn’t end up having it, but I think the person I e-mailed felt a hell of a lot better having talked to someone who had information about the disease before their am doctors appointment. Sometimes waiting overnight is unbearable without information.

Law questions are the same. People want validation of their problems. “Can my wife really move three states away and take my kids?” “Exactly what does a restraining order do?”

Computer questions are similar. “Hey, a big thing with eyes just popped out of my hard drive and said “You’re doomed” to me. Is this normal?”

I realize that legal questions can have a much deeper impact on lives then computer or health questions. A lawyer is a paid professional who should not dispense free advice if he or she doesn’t wish to. And no one is forcing anyone to do that. It’s not a crime to ask, though. (Is it?- whoops! law question!)

I am a computer professional who frequently gets asked/grilled at parties. (I, too charge by the hour, even to talk on the phone)
If I don’t want to discuss their problem, I just say “You know, I do so much of this at work- I really want to relax and enjoy myself right now”. Call me on Monday and we’ll figure it all out. I’ve never had anyone get mad.

I’ve dispensed free advice on the internet, but sparingly. Usually I get contradicted, which annoys me no end. Unless I like the person a lot, I don’t give out tech advice on this board.

Anyway, there’s no harm in asking.


from the ones I’ve read here, while the medical questions may fall into the realm of “gee whiz what the hell is that thing and how sick am I?”, the legal questions seem to be more of the quality:

I did this really stupid thing and now I don’t like the consequences, and am trying to wrangle out of it, but I don’t want to actually pay for it, and don’t really want to tell you the WHOLE story…

examples include speeding tickets and how to get out of them, flunking drug tests (I’ve seen at least 3 of those, at least one of whom was on probation), and other cases where the logical and projectable consequences of an action aren’t pleasant.

Now, I’m not knocking the folks trying to wrangle out of a circumstance, but, I see it in a totally different light, especially since the questions are often started with a tone of gee, isn’t this really bad what they’re trying to do to me (like the person who was concerned about flunking a drug test didn’t mention in the OP that the REASON the drug test was being taken was they were on probation for a drinking and driving offense. well, DUH!!! if you can’t stay away from stuff while you KNOW you’ve got a real chance of being tested, that pretty well defines, IMHO, some one with a drug problem)

and as for the “don’t answer them”… tough thing to do when you see folks giving really bad advice. (I saw one where the question was “can I carry lock picking tools legally?” and some folks had answered “yep”. I pointed out that if they got picked up for it, the judge wouldn’t be impressed by the ‘but the folks at the SDMB ** said ** it’d be ok’ defense, and that they should check their local laws with their local officials…) IANAL by the way.

IANAL, but I am a law student.

I very much enjoy the threads that discuss legal issues in a more abstract way. (e.g., What might be aggravating circumstances for fraud?) But anyone who posts wanting to know how to format papers for representing himself pro se needs to read the OP. Helpful advice may also be forthcoming if they post their state, and ideally city as well. The advice may be of the form, “The Podunk University’s law school clinic can be reached at 555-1212,” but that may be the best advice you can get on the web.

Despite the fact that most people who represent themselves do a terrible job, I do still believe that allowing pro se actions is a fundamental liberty that should not be abridged. But that’s for Great Debates…

This is ridiculous. I guess you don’t hear “I am a lawyer because I wanted to help people” to often for a reason.

First off, you can’t compare posting an quasi-anonymous question to a message board to cornering someone at a party. We all have our field of expertise and most of us get paid to exploit that. Everyone can see that its rude to expect free advice from a potentially unwilling person, and face to face situations present that problem. The internet however allows the reader the freedom to pick and choose who he interacts with absolute control. The same arguements that hold true for not censoring things, applies to this topic. If you don’t feel right helping other people for free doing something you typically get paid for, then don’t read the thread. Critisizing people for asking the questions makes me think you are a greedy little prick propagating the laywer stereotype.

Of course there is bad advice out there, and you might feel compelled to answer. Don’t however use that as an excuse to belittle the person asking for some help. Asking for free anonymous advice comes with the pitfalls of bad or patently false advice, and the asker bears that burden. Its not your responsibility to police it, so don’t blame the forum for your compulsions.

If legal, medical and computer questions in GQ are wrong because people spend money learning to practice those specialties. Then I suppose I shouldn’t answer Aerospace questions, or Michi shouldn’t answer Vetinary questions. You know, now that I think about it, lets shut down GQ altogether, its just a bunch of selfish, greedy people asking for free knowledge that good righteuous people pay for.

The point is, its never wrong to ask a question here, that why this forum was created. If you feel the need to clutch your wallet thats fine, but don’t presume to write the standards by which this place is run.

In regards to those people trying to weasel out of a crime they did indeed commit, especially the drug use example listed here, those people are foolish because of their actions, and the charges against them are probably just. Everyone is entitled to good legal counsul. But quit pretending that they are idiots for asking a question that happens to be about law. The fact of the matter is they are idiots for getting into trouble, and idiots for pretending to be the victims, but I fail to see how they are wrong in asking an open question.

I think ENugent has it right. This thread was created in response to some of the more specific questions that are cropping up in General Questions lately, the kind of questions that cannot be answered quickly, anonymously, and long-distance.

I like discussing broader topics, and folks getting at me for being miserly with my legal thoughts should note that I have happily posted concerning topics from Separation of Church and State to getting out of speeding tickets as cheaply and efficiently as possible.

But there is a difference between “Is it worth fighting this ticket?” and “How do I draft this kind of pleading?” or “I’m in a dire legal situation that needs immediate attention - give me specific directions on what to do.”

FYI, I put this in MPSIMS because it is not a response to one specific General Question, and it didn’t seem appropriate elsewhere. It is my opinion on the general topic - and therefore is mundane and pointless to many, but I felt I must share.