Like lifting a book report from a Wikipedia article, getting legal advice from Reddit can seem pretty risky. After all, who’s behind this information? Is it accurate? And, if you rely on it, are you going to get yourself into more trouble? In the end, you’re probably better off reading the book yourself or talking to a real live lawyer.
But, as a recent Vice profile highlighted, that’s where Reddit’s Legal Advice subreddit can be at its best: answering the most common legal question, “Do I need a lawyer?”
If and When
We’re guessing (hoping, maybe) that we’re not the only ones mining Reddit’s r/legaladvice subreddit and paired Twitter account for legal topics to cover on our blogs. Such topics as “Using a Power of Attorney to Kick Kids out of the House” and “How Rich Do I Have to Be to Get Sent to a Country Club Prison?” for example. But most, if not all, of the forum’s users are asking serious questions about serious legal problems. And, Reddit makes it very clear that responses to questions on the subreddit do not constitute legal advice.
“Many of the best, most helpful threads on r/legaladvice simply answer that question of whether someone needs an attorney or whether legal action is merited,” wrote Vice’s Nicole Clark. Beyond filling the ever-widening gap between the average person and the court system and the perception that lawyers can be too expensive, most Reddit users really need to know if they need a lawyer’s help. “Another gap filled by r/legaladvice is telling people when they need a lawyer — which is often the most important advice of all,” Clark noted. “The most common reason these people didn’t get a lawyer was that they didn’t know they even needed one.”
Where to Turn
Also, as the article pointed out, you don’t need to hire an attorney to tell you about country club prisons. Non-lawyer specialists, like the ones moderating and contributing to the legal advice subreddit, can give you the same, sometimes more accurate information than attorneys.
As we always say around here, your best source of legal advice is a lawyer. And if you’re wondering if you need to talk to a lawyer, the answer is probably yes. Many will answer preliminary questions or provide initial consultations free of charge. Still, Reddit isn’t the worst stop for legal questions, even if FindLaw should be your first stop.
(By the way, a recent study pegged Wikipedia’s accuracy at 99 percent. So maybe you don’t have to read “Moby Dick” after all.)