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Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Virtual Law - friend or foe?

One of my regular themes is exploring the future of the legal profession and how law will be practiced in years to come.

In previous blogs I have talked about the need for lawyers to be aware of social networking and the power of the internet. 

The internet could also become the first place that a person might go to look for legal advice – not to find virtual lawyers but to find out what the law is. And there will be no shortage of options. But will they be any good?

An article in today’s Guardian looks at legal advice given in relation to landlord and tenant problems from Law on the Web, which describes itself as - 'The UK's Biggest Source Of Free UK Legal Information'

The article highlights some of the problems of quick online advice. It is normally vague and even occasionally wrong.

I remember a client disagreeing with my advice and who supported her views with a copy of the Readers’ Digest guide to the Law. What she had read had no actual bearing on her case at all. It just seemed to say what she wanted to hear. The problem is that this sort of advice can tell you what the law is – provided it is accurate. But it cannot place it in context. It cannot address your particular problem, it cannot advise you of the pitfalls involved in seeking to fight for your rights and it will certainly not be able to tell you the cost.

So while wikipedilaw (my invention!!) might be interesting it is no substitute for specific and directly relevant legal advice. Lawyers are highly regulated and have to carry insurance against those rare occasions – well I’m bound to say that - when they get it wrong.

There have been drastic cuts in access to justice –

This is bound to lead to a huge increase in the numbers of people seeking to bring their own cases. But looking for advice in this way can be dangerous and ultimately costly.

Sadly there is no substitute for professional advice. It might be from a lawyer or advice centre but it is certainly worth the effort. Most lawyers I know will give initial help and point you in the right direction at little or no cost.

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