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Tuesday
Jul312001

Internet Alert 2

In the 01-04 issue of LegalBriefs, I alerted you to the dangers of relying on legal advice from the Internet. When you have a legal question, you need judgment. However, you have no way to evaluate the judgment of faceless strangers posting opinions on message boards, in chat rooms, by email and on web pages.

The July 15, 2001 issue of the New York Times Magazine profiled LawGuy1975, the No. 1 rated legal expert on the popular AskMe Web site. Founded by former Microsoft employees, AskMe.com became the most heavily used knowledge exchange on the Internet. In its first year alone, the site hosted more than 10 million visitors.

LawGuy1975 was one of AskMe.com’s leading experts. In one week alone, he answered 939 legal questions. LawGuy1975 was a 15 year old boy living in Paris, California. When asked how he researched his answers, the New York Times reports he said he never researched his answers, he "just knew it."

Even if you never come in contact with LawGuy1975, what DO you know about the person authoring advice you read on the Internet? Are they REALLY a lawyer? How do you know? How good of a lawyer are they? How do you know? Are they worth you putting your trust and confidence in their judgment? How do you know? What do you have at risk if you receive bad advice or advice not tailored to your particular situation? Could you have more at risk than you are aware?

I know I am repeating myself, but it is worth repeating. When navigating the Internet:

DON'T: Don't assume that the statements you make in email messages or discussion group postings can't come back to haunt you later.

DON'T: Although this probably goes without saying, don't rely on advice you receive over the Internet. You have no way of knowing whether the person offering the advice knows what they are doing or whether the facts of your situation and the law in your jurisdiction match the experience of the person offering the advice.

DO: Do remember that all of your written communications, whether they be agreements, letters, memos or Internet postings, must be carefully drafted to prevent legal liability.

DON'T: Don't use the Internet to discuss any issue that could have legal consequences.

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