Should business owners use these Web sites? It depends on what you need and how great your risk is. Internet attorney Christopher Wolf of Proskauer Rose LLP in Washington, DC, considers the sites a valuable resource for lawyers but dangerous for nonlawyers hoping to treat their own legal ills. "It's dangerous to engage in the practice of law without a license," he says. It's one thing to use sites to get educated so you know what to discuss with your attorney, he says, and another to think you no longer need a lawyer because you can learn what you need online.
Wolf especially warns against using legal documents found on the Internet. "They look OK but may be woefully inadequate," he says. "I'd want a lawyer skilled in the area to look them over."
Hornsby advises business owners to use sound judgment in evaluating legal sites. His advice:
- Look for a well-reasoned response.
- Check to see if collateral information is available.
- Determine whether responses are from a lawyer in your jurisdiction with expertise in the right field. Advice from another state may not be relevant.
- Be aware of the extent to which the site is selling services. "Do they offer advice that [traps] you into buying their products?" Hornsby asks. "It's important for consumers to find the most objective advice [to solve] their problems."
American Bar Association, http://www.abanet.org
Proskauer Rose LLC, firstname.lastname@example.org
Texas State Bar Office, (800) 204-2222