If you're still interested after these words of caution, these extensive legal sites all cater to a nationwide clientele:
- FreeAdvice.com, sponsored by Advice & Counsel Inc. in San Francisco, was called "the most useful consumer legal site" by USA Today. Users can click on such topics as business law, intellectual property or employment law, then on various subtopics for information in a question-answer format. A "Find a lawyer" button links to "AttorneyPages," a user-friendly directory of lawyers and law firms searchable by city and area of specialization.
- FindLaw.com, which began in 1995 as a list of Internet resources for law librarians, provides a wealth of resources for attorneys as well as for the public. The site affords access to Supreme Court cases, state laws, government regulations and a wide range of materials on legal topics prepared by bar associations, law firms, legal publishers and government agencies, as well as links to legal organizations, law schools, law firm Web sites and more. The site's Small Business Center offers a home office guidebook, step-by-step checklists, model business plans, forms and other legal documents, and an extensive legal dictionary. One link takes the user to free e-mail counseling on small-business problems from SCORE.
- Nolo.com Inc., the former Nolo Press, which has offered self-help law books since 1971, provides a legal dictionary and an encyclopedia with articles on a broad range of legal topics, including small-business concerns, plus a research feature that enables users to find federal and state laws on given topics. Although Nolo.com employs numerous lawyers to prepare its materials, the site has a distinctive antilawyer attitude (including hundreds of lawyer jokes and a "Shark-talk" word game). One feature, "Ask Auntie Nolo," invites users to describe specific legal problems to the site's plain-spoken advisor, who claims to cut through the legalese--but offers overly simplistic responses. For a fee, users can download form documents to customize themselves.
- Law.com provides a law dictionary, online legal research and answers to frequently asked questions on various topics. A self-help law guide provides definitions, general information and links to helpful Web sites, available publications and forms to be downloaded and customized. For those who still can't find answers, the Web site's staff can direct users to other Web sites.
Some law firms offer online legal advice for residents of their states. For instance, http://www.rapidlaw.com is the Web site for Houston attorney James H. Miller. The site invites Texas residents or those doing business in Texas to send questions by e-mail, which an attorney will answer within 48 hours for a flat fee of $35. Those who need fast answers can telephone and speak with an attorney over the phone for $3 per minute.