Your liability and "general information" vs "specific advice"

  “General Information Versus Specific Advice”

 
As set forth in the Expert Agreement, at section 3(e), Experts in the Legal, Medical, Health, Veterinary, Pet or Large Animal categories shall provide general information only, not specific advice, to Customers on JustAnswer. Experts are liable for all activities and answers provided under their usernames and passwords, including the answers they provide to Customers. 
 
While JustAnswer cannot provide you with legal advice regarding these or any other terms of the Expert Agreement, or your local rules and regulations, we have posted some potentially relevant material below. Please feel free to email us with others you’d like us to include here, especially those that show actual versus suggested language. 
 
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"It is permissible for lawyers to take part in on-line chat rooms and similar arrangements through which attorneys engage in back-and-forth communications, in ‘real time’ or nearly real time, with Internet users seeking legal information, provided they comply with all applicable rules of professional conduct. To avoid formation of attorney-client relationships through such chat room conversations, lawyers should avoid giving specific legal advice.…
The relevant distinction is that between legal advice and legal information.  Providing legal information involves discussion of legal principles, trends, and considerations – the kind of information one might give in a speech or newspaper article, for example.  Providing legal advice, on the other hand, involves offering recommendations tailored to the unique facts of a particular person’s circumstances.  Thus, in discussing legal information, lawyers should be careful to emphasize that it is intended as general information only, which may or may not be applicable to an individual’s specific situation….
Consistent with that analysis, lawyers wishing to avoid formation of attorney-client relationships through chat room or similar Internet communications should limit themselves to providing legal information, and should not seek to elicit or respond to the specifics of particular individuals’ situations … lawyers should advise information seekers to obtain legal counsel to determine what law would be applicable to their unique circumstances…. Where a communication is lengthy or otherwise might leave room for misunderstanding, lawyers should remind inquirers that the chat room communication is not a substitute for specific legal advice, and that the lawyer is providing general legal information only." See full opinion here.
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The Opinion provides the following example of an actual online communication that may run afoul of the information versus advice distinction:
 

"Q: I am in the US on a visa waiver from UK [that] expires on 8th Sept. I have been told by an abusive husband not to return. I am therefore homeless –he has told immigration officials about me-they told him that I won’t be allowed to re enter the States. This is the only place I have a home!!!!!! Please help?...
A: Based upon the statements you made, it appears that you are in-status and your visa expires on September 8, 2001. It is difficult to change status from the visa waiver. Additionally, you might want to apply for a nonimmigrant visa, such as a student (“F”) visa. You will probably be required to leave the United States to obtain it. If you have no interest in education you might want to apply for a nonimmigrant work visa. Without knowing more about your background, I do not know if you are eligible for any work visas…. If you know of a specific visa for which you want to apply. Or if you would like to discuss this with me. I offer a 10 minute free telephone consultation. XXX-XXX-XXXX is my direct line." See full opinion here.
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After evaluating the attorney's response to the Internet user's question, the DC Bar provides the following suggested alternative response and explanation:
 
"A: Generally, persons who are in the U.S. on non-expired visa waivers are in status. Such persons, however, may often find it difficult to change status from a visa waiver. They might try to apply for a non-immigrant visa, such as a student visa, but they would probably be required to leave the United States to obtain such a visa. Another possibility some persons in this situation explore is to apply for non-immigrant work visa. I cannot give you legal advice on your particular situation, but if you would like to discuss your specific case with me, you may call me for a consultation…" See full opinion here.
Such wording makes it more clear that the lawyer is not purporting to give legal advice than did the repeated "you should..." statements contained in the attorney's response quoted earlier in this opinion." See full opinion here.
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(Of course, on JustAnswer, Experts are prohibited from soliciting customers on the Site or providing personal contact information.) This chart pulls from the above DC Bar Legal Ethics Opinion examples:
Answer Example               
DC Bar Suggested Alternative Answer                 
 
Based upon the statements you made, it appears that you are in-status and your visa expires on September 8, 2001.
 Generally, persons who are in the U.S. on non-expired visa waivers are in status.
 
It is difficult to change status from the visa waiver.
 
Such persons, however, may often find it difficult to change status from a visa waiver.
 
Additionally, you might want to apply for a nonimmigrant visa, such as a student (“F”) visa. You will probably be required to leave the United States to obtain it.
 
They might try to apply for a non-immigrant visa, such as a student visa, but they would probably be required to leave the United States to obtain such a visa.
 
If you have no interest in education you might want to apply for a nonimmigrant work visa.
 
Another possibility some persons in this situation explore is to apply for non-immigrant work visa.
 
Without knowing more about your background, I do not know if you are eligible for any work visas….
I cannot give you legal advice on your particular situation ….
Please click here to access the full opinion.
 
DISCLAIMER: This FAQ is not intended to, nor shall it, take the place of your own research or the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction with respect to compliance with the relevant rules and regulations of your profession or JustAnswer’s Expert Agreement.