While the case study indicates that law seems to show leniency and support for innovative sources of

Case 2: Legal Advice over the Internet 10 marks
Is it proper to deliver professional advice directly to consumers via the Internet?
A number of legal help services have sprouted on the World Wide Web, where a consumer can ask a general question of a lawyer.
Sometimes fees are charged and sometimes the advice is free. An example
is: www.freeadvice.com.
Oftentimes the people operating these sites do not wish for their content to constitute specific legal advice in an attorney-client relationship for any of three reasons:
1. An attorney dispensing legal advice to true legal clients owes ethical duties of confidentiality, loyalty, and diligence, and the presence of those duties would make the Web service more
rigid and expensive.
2. Often, these Web sites are owned and operated at least in part by non-lawyers, and any lawyers who are contributing to the sites will have an ethical duty not to split legal fees with nonlawyers.
3. Sometimes the people operating or providing content through the sites are non-lawyers and state ethics laws prohibit nonlawyers from practicing law. The laws behind each of these three reasons are intended to protect consumers of legal services.
In order to avoid classifying their content as specific legal advice creating an attorney-client relationship, the Q&A Web sites usually post disclaimers and try to make their answers generic.
Interestingly, when legal question and answer shows were first broadcast over radio in the 1930s, local bar associations took action, in the name of professional ethics, to shut the shows down, claiming they were a threat to unsophisticated consumers. The fear was that consumers
would not understand the information delivered through the shows and mistakenly believe their legal problems were simpler than was actually the case.
The modern version of the Q&A radio show is the Q&A Web site. But today is not the 1930s. Even though the Q&A Web phenomenon has been the subject of considerable discussion by bar associations, no one is taking action against the Web sites. An important reason is that people.perceive the profession would lose if it tried to shut down the sites today. That perception is supported by the recent experience in Texas, where the profession tried to drive out publishers of legal how-to manuals and software, but was roundly rebuffed by the legislature.
The trend in this area of law seems to be leniency and support for innovative sources of legal information for consumers.
Benjamin Wright
Chief Legal Counsel
Anonymous User
Anonymous User
Asked Feb 20, 2017

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