Financial & Legal News

A word about online forums

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Free guidance from online forums might not be the reliable legal advice you expected.

It never ceases to amaze me that people place their trust in online forums when they need advice about a legal issue! I suppose I should have started this blog with a warning: after reading it, you might accuse me of being a self-promoting lawyer. Bear with me...

I have nothing against online forums in principle. In fact, they can be immensely useful: I can get second opinions on holiday accommodation, check feedback on products I'd like to buy and occasionally I like to read about others' parenting or life experiences.

What I can't understand is why people seek legal advice through these forums. I appreciate that the guidance is often free but why do people expect free guidance to match their particular circumstances and meet their legal needs? By analogy, would you ask a surgeon to diagnose your chronic stomach pains online and then go straight to surgery to have an appendix removed?

I can understand people who use legal forums to give themselves a rough idea of their options but there is often no clear-cut, single answer to a problem.

Many of these forums suggest – or insist - in their small print that users should also take professional legal advice. There's a good reason for this: the guidance they give might not be from a qualified lawyer and might not be covered by professional indemnity insurance. If the guidance they give turns out to be wrong and you rely on it to your loss, you will have no comeback against the forum.

I also understand the public perception that solicitors' firms' charges are high. But when it comes to legal advice, you definitely get what you pay for. Solicitors, barristers and legal executives study and train for many years to achieve a good knowledge of the law and how to apply it. They must complete practical training in a legal firm or set of barristers chambers and at the end of it, when they qualify, they must have demonstrated their legal capabilities well enough to be taken on by a firm of solicitors or set of chambers. It's a fairly robust and thorough process.

Speak to a qualified solicitor

 For any legal issue, I would recommend that you speak to your solicitor about the problems you face. Every situation is different and a solicitor will advise you about what to do based on your particular circumstances and bearing in mind your specific instructions. Yes, this might cost more than you would ideally like to pay but this up-front cost is, in 99.9% of cases, far cheaper than the cost of sorting out a problem if you rely on inadequate advice. 

Free guidance from an online forum might seem attractive, but will you think so if you act on it, it turns out to be wrong and you are left out of pocket?

Take advice from a qualified lawyer and give yourself the comfort that they know what they're doing – and are fully insured in case something does go wrong.

Ok – rant over. I'll leave you with two tips:

Tips on managing your legal costs

  • If you are worried about the cost of legal advice, give your solicitor a call to talk about it. We're all human and understand that cash is tight. Most firms also have fee arrangements they can offer. At Pearson Solicitors, we aspire to transparency about how we charge. You can read about how to manage your legal costs and the Pearson approach to charging here
  • Don't forget to check your home insurance policy. In many cases, legal expenses insurance is part of your insurance cover.

Victoria Marshall


Victoria specialises in residential property and conveyancing. You can contact her on 0161 785 3500.

If you would like to know more about our conveyancing service, you can contact Victoria or make an enquiry.

Posted January 2017

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

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