Ah, the Internet: the world’s greatest double-edged sword. It offers such an incredible wealth of information, but it could also lead you completely astray. And you don’t want to be led astray when it comes to something as important as proper legal advice.
While it may be true that some of the legal advice online is potentially worse than useless, much of it has done a great deal of good for people who can’t afford to have a team of lawyers at their beck and call. Thankfully, it is also possible to crowdsource your legal advice from people who are really experts in that field. There aren’t too many sites that do this, but the couple that do can really help you save in legal costs.
Whether you’re looking for some guidance when it comes to the legal specifics of your home-based business or you want some help to fight that nasty DUI charge, the Internet is there to help you.
Easily the biggest name in crowdsourcing your legal advice is LawPivot. You are able to post your confidential legal questions to the site and it will then identify some of the key content in your question. From there, the site uses an algorithm to match your area of interest with a lawyer from the LawPivot community, sending along your question to these qualified experts.
When that process is complete, you effectively receive multiple answers to your question from multiple lawyers. How you choose to proceed from that point is completely up to you, but it means that you were able to receive legal advice from actual lawyers and not coffee shop owner John Smith.
The management team at LawPivot consists of two lawyers and a software engineer. Jay Mandal was the lead mergers and acquisitions lawyer for Apple, while fellow LawPivot co-founder Nitin Gupta was an intellectual property litigation lawyer at Townsend & Townsend & Crew.
Since LawPivot is still in its early stages, it only offers a free trial to California companies and allows California lawyers to join its stable of experts. They plan on expanding to other states (and hopefully other countries) in the future, so you can sign up in the meantime to stay in the loop.
Founded in June 2009 and launched in private beta in December 2009, Quora sets out to be the best and most reliable question-and-answer website on the Internet. This might sound a lot like Answers.com and other Q&A sites, but this “online knowledge market” appears to be better at culling together the same questions so they don’t get asked multiple times in multiple ways.
Available to the public since June 2010, Quora is not at all specific to legal advice, but it can prove to be a very useful resource for people who seek to crowdsource this kind of information. It also acts as a social network of sorts, since you are able to “follow” certain people. You can also “follow” topics and these show up in your “feed” accordingly. Your feed is initially populated based on information in your Twitter or Facebook profile feeds.
Quora certainly looks and feels more powerful than other question and answer sites. If you’re looking for legal advice, just follow the legal topics.
Other Legal Advice Options
Fortunately or unfortunately, there isn’t a heck of a lot when it comes to crowdsourcing your legal advice online. I suppose this makes sense, since lawyers would likely prefer it if you came to them and paid for their services instead. Make all the lawyer jokes you want, but I guess they need to make a living too.
That said, there are some alternatives to LawPivot and Quora emerging on the web too. If you’re over in the UK, for instance, you might look into Bootlaw. They offer “free information on legal issues facing emerging technology, Internet and digital businesses.” They also host monthly events in their London office, covering business questions and their legal ramifications. And yes, that’s free too.
Do you get what you pay for? Perhaps, but having some free and crowdsourced resources can certainly help to supplement your existing legal counsel even if it may not be sufficient to replace it completely.
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