With the current legal climate on the Web, running into a few questions about the law is almost inevitable. However, finding out where to take those questions or who to ask can be a very difficult matter.
One of the best places to get answers is actually a throwback to the pre-blogging Web, communities and forums.
Sites such as the Performancing Legal Issue Forum, where I answer questions regularly, can not only provide a great place to ask and receive answers to your questions, but also to offer your own opinion on those posted by others.
Though advice given on forums should never be taken as legal advice, no matter who is offering it, forums can be a valuable tool in when navigating the confusing world of legal law if used properly.
Reasons to Post
If you encounter a legal issue or have a question legal matter, there are two advantages to posting them to a forum such as Performancing’s.
First, posting your question in a forum environment gives you the chance to get multiple opinions about the case, not just one person’s input. Since no one person is perfect, getting more input not only means you can develop a consensus, but also bring in other aspects that go beyond the law including ethics and standards.
Likewise, it also allows others to expand upon the question by changing different variables and looking at the issue in different ways. This can help explore alternatives to very risky behavior and develop ways to avoid conflicts in the future.
Finally, posting a question in a forum creates a public record of it and the responses it receives. This helps others with the same or a similar question get the answers they need or at least offer them some direction as to where to look.
In short, taking advantage of community help with these matters not only helps find an answer, but also helps others that you, most likely, have never met.
Not Legal Advice
Of course, any time you ask a question on an Internet forum, Performancing’s or elsewhere, you should never assume that the answer is legal advice, even if the reply is coming from an attorney.
The reason is that only an attorney working for you can provide legal council on your behalf. Though forum environments can answer simple questions fairly definitively and provide great discussion on more complicated ones, only an attorney under your employ, one intimately familiar with all aspects of your case, can provide true legal advice.
There are many questions that should only be answered by such an attorney and many of the situations you encounter will require exactly that for a definitive answer.
With that being said, there is still a great deal to be gained from such forums, if run well. The dialog can be immensely useful and, at times, the best advice you can get isn’t even law-related, but ethical guidance or even ways to avoid the situation altogether.
Getting the Best Results
Since forum members, though often very knowledgeable about the law, can’t provide legal advice the best thing to look for and take to heart is not their opinions, but their research.
The best answers contain heavy amounts of relevant cases and legal doctrine that enable you to make your own decisions, rather than simply stating their personal opinion.
Because, while opinions can be valuable, they should always be taken with a grain of salt. The law and case history is something that can be researched and followed up on conclusively.
By using the research and pointers provided, you not only gain access to information you might not have found by searching on your own, but are also able to delve deeper into the matter yourself and better understand the complexities of the issue.
Even if there is no conclusive answer, as if often the case, the deeper your own understanding goes, the better. This can not only help you avoid legal conflicts, but also help you save time and money should one arise later.
All totaled, if you seek out communities that are well-run and go into it knowing that you are not receiving legal advice, getting help from a forum can not only help you make sense of the Web, but also those who come after you.
But what is more important than where you take your questions is that they are answered by knowledgeable people who are going to take your interests to heart. This can be hard to tell on a forum, or anywhere else on the Web for that matter, and that is why it can be so important, when dealing with issues that could put you in legal jeopardy, to seek out legal council when necessary.
In the end, posting your issues to a forum is a great tool for navigating the murky legal waters of the Web. However, it is just that, a single tool.
It should never be treated as the definitive guide or the only source of information. It is at least as important to think for yourself, do your own research and talk with others you know.
But given the current legal climate on the Web, using every tool you have available not only makes sense, but is a virtual necessity.