A few times each month, the attorneys at GRIFFITH LAW GROUP must explain to a client that the blog article the client read on the Internet inaccurately describes the law as it applies to that client, or that the blog article or e-Book fails to address all the elements of a claim or defense, and simply does not fully or properly explain the law. The Internet is a fantastic place to research topics and get some quick information to help you make certain decisions. Unfortunately, the Internet is also full of innacurate information and bad advice. Consequently, no one should ever base an important legal, tax, retirement, financial or medical decision exclusively on information found on the Internet. Ideally, the Internet is a place to start but not finish research into important topics. Ideally, people will use the Internet to educate themselves about a particular topic and then use that improved knowledge base to have a more productive consultation with a professional, whether that be a lawyer, doctor, financial planner, or Certified Public Accountant.
The Dangers of Internet Research
Here are the key reasons why no one should ever base an important legal, tax or business decision on information found on the Internet:
- Laws vary from state to state, and blog articles often do not explain variations in state laws.
- Blog articles often become outdated and, therefore, inaccurate.
- Internet information is often inaccurate: flat out wrong. By way of example, we routinely witness real estate investors using a Quitclaim Deed, when a Warranty Deed should have been used, because the investor had read something online written by a self-proclaimed “expert.”
- Experience and expertise matter, and it is often difficult to determine whether an online author of a blog or e-Book actually has the requisite experience and expertise to write about a topic. This goes for online videos as well. Also, one blog article, even if expertly written, may not address every issue facing a client. It is often not what you know, but what you don’t know, that hurts you.
- Often, an important legal, tax, retirement, financial or medical decision requires the exercise of judgment, and the Internet will never be able to serve as a substitute for judgment.
Only Read Law Articles Written By Experienced Lawyers
Never rely on any Internet resource to make a legal decision, unless that resource comes from a licensed, knowledegable and experienced lawyer in your state. Even then, be cautious, because some lawyers are not as knowledgable as they think they are. Recently, we came across a video of a lawyer explaining and advocating a real estate transaction structure that was clearly in violation of federal law. The lawyer on the video was probably repeating some bad information he had learned from the Internet, and clearly had not delt with the legal issues that arise from the deal structure he was advocating. The dangers of relying on professional advice from some stranger on an Internet video are real, and the consequences of relying on bad legal advice can be devasting.
Why Experts Matter
A good expert will explain the rationale supporting his or her opinion, in order to enable the client to fully understand the circumstances and consequences of the choices a client must make. Providing complete information is a professional’s responsibility, and the one undeniable difference between an Internet blog article and professional counseling.
In fact, in our law firm, we believe that our primary responsibility to our clients is to educate them—to give them enough information that the client can make his or her own decisions. In the medical profession, that is often called “informed consent.” A doctor is not supposed to make certain medical decisions for a patient. Rather, the doctor is required to give enough information to a patient to enable the patient to make a healthcare decision based upon a clear appreciation and understanding of the facts, implications, and consequences of the decision.
That same approach of acquiring “informed consent” should be followed by every professional. Unfortunately, not all lawyers share this philosophy or follow this approach. Many lawyers think that they know what is best for their clients, and they essentially make decisions for their clients. The attorneys at GRIFFITH LAW GROUP adhere to the “informed consent” approach. We believe that our job is to educate and guide our clients, but not to impose our will and substitute our decisions for those of our clients.
“Informed consent” is impossible to obtain by reading blog articles and watching YouTube videos. As explained above, a client might read a well-written article on a legal topic and base his or her decision on that article, but fail to realize that there are other related issues. Unless you know what topics are at issue and, therefore, what online articles to read, you cannot rely on online materials. Experts have studied the entirety of the subject matter, and that experise enables them to identify issues, risks, and opportunities that might never be discovered by someone reading blog articles on the wrong topics.
The best way to utilize the Internet in law-related decision-making is to read reliable articles written by experienced lawyers in your state, and then to use that improved knowledge base to meet and consult with the lawyer who authored those materials.