Ethical Ramifications of Avvo Answers?

What sort of ethical jeopardy do you place yourself in by answering Avvo questions outside your area of expertise and outside your geographical areal? Do you think that a disclaimer claiming that your answer is "not legal advice" has any effect when Avvo advertises Avvo Answers as "free legal advice"?

Houston, TX -

Attorney Answers (4)

Robert Smead Hogan

Robert Smead Hogan

Personal Injury Lawyer - Lubbock, TX
Answered

Ok. I'll bite. Merely as a hypothetical, I think that lawyers should be careful about answering questions outside of their geographical area and outside of their area of expertise. However, many people post questions asking about the law, and there are many kind souls who are licensed to practice law, that can give general information. There is always a risk that the information may be incorrect.

However, I also believe that anyone who takes action in reliance solely upon a free legal opinion posted on the internet is foolish. You get what you pay for. That is a lot like divorcing your husband because of something you saw on a talk show. Does it happen? Probably. Is it foolhardy? Definitely.

I do see your point about the disclaimer, however there is a broader issue here. Most states determine whether there is an obligation owed by a lawyer to an individual based on whether there is an attorney-client relationship formed. If you don't pay anything for advice, and don't sign a contract, then I would seriously question whether there could be any attorney-client relationship formed.

Your mileage may vary. (and please note that this does not constitute "legal advice." :-)

Fran Brochstein

Fran Brochstein

Mediation Attorney - Houston, TX
Answered

I agree with the other attorney.

That said, I want to add a little more...

What I find interesting is that people want FREE legal advice. In Harris County, Texas 50% of the family law cases (such as divorce) are people representing themselves! (The judges hate it because it is slowing down their dockets and many people show up with out-dated or incorrect paperwork.)

I don't find electricians, a/c repairmen, mechanics, yardmen, painters, etc. willing to give their work away for free!

There is an old saying -- you get what you pay for!
You did not pay anything so you have nothing to complain about.

And how about -- buyer beware!

And, it's worth the paper it's written on! (I could go on like this for hours!)

And, lastly, only a fool would represent themselves in a lawsuit!

I'm an attorney and I always hire an attorney to represent me when I have a legal problem. Why?
Because I'm too closely involved to be objective.

My dentist agreed not to practice law and I agreed not to do my own home dentistry! I have the same agreement with my plumber!

I really enjoy the commercial with a man on the phone with this surgeon trying to do his own heart operation.

In order to be a licensed attorney in Texas, you must have an undergraduate degree, go to law school for 3 years and then pass a horrible 3 day test. Also, your background is checked before you begin law school and after you complete law school to make sure that you have not committed any crimes. Attorneys in Texas are required to take continuing legal education classes each year.

I'm sure you think you asked a very precise question. I find your question too vague to directly answer it. As an attorney, I would not try to answer this question until I'd talked to you in person. What do you mean by outside your area of experience? What do you mean by outside your geographical areal (sp)? As an attorney, I've been trained to dissect each word and not to assume anything.

In summary, hire an attorney that you trust and trust their judgment. Don't shop around.

Deirdre Lynn O'Connor

Deirdre Lynn O'Connor

Appeals Lawyer - Torrance, CA
Answered

I think yours are fair questions, which should not be ridiculed or dismissed. The lawyers that participate on this site do so because we realize a benefit - new clients and exposure. Some of us, as my colleague stated, actually enjoy helping people in the process. Because we are lawyers and we do benefit from this site, we owe it to the consumer to make sure our advice is accurate. For most of us, that means when it is pointed out that our advice was not on the money, we readily admit it and defer to a more knowledgeable colleague.

As to your questions, yes, of course, there are a number of lawyers who are determined to answer many questions to get "points" without providing substance and sometimes they provide a bad answer. Hopefully, when that happens, the right lawyer comes along and corrects it. Moreover, my experience is that there are far more decent lawyers on this site than there are the opportunistic ones who are sloppy with their advice.

Unfortunately, I don't think the lawyers place themselves in any real jeopardy by answering questions that they shouldn't. Frankly, the only consequence for doing so is that it discourages people like yourself from using the site or having confidence in the advice provided. If it happens often enough Avvo and the good lawyers here lose out.

Give Avvo another try . . . I think the odds are good that you'll get a decent lawyer to chime in with accurate advice.

Kimberly Ann Kralowec

Kimberly Ann Kralowec

Class Action Attorney - San Francisco, CA
Answered

The AVVO Terms of Use addresses this:

9. No Attorney-Client Relationship

Information posted or made available on or through the Site, including without limitation any responses to legal questions posted on Avvo Answers, information provided in Avvo Legal Guides, and any other comments, opinions, recommendations, answers, analysis, references, referrals or legally related content or information (collectively "Legal Information") is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship between you and any attorney. Such Legal Information is intended for general informational purposes only and should be used only as a starting point for addressing your legal issues. It is not a substitute for an in-person or telephone consultation with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction about your specific legal issue, and you should not rely upon such Legal Information. You understand that questions and answers or other postings to the Site are not confidential and are not subject to attorney-client privilege.

http://www.avvo.com/support/terms

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