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How risky is it for people to self-identify as legal professionals and answer questions here?

In Britain, precedent such as Chaudry v Prabhakar – 1989 can make British lawyers reticent to give informal advice, even when outside of a professional or business context.

I do wonder whether the site disclaimer is sufficient to protect against a claim for incorrect advice however.

Law Stack Exchange is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized advice from a qualified legal practitioner. Communications on Law Stack Exchange are not privileged communications and do not create an attorney-client relationship.

It is also questionable as to whether professional indemnity insurance in the U.K. would cover a British lawyer sued in this way.

So, what are the risks for British lawyers, and do other countries rulings similar to Chaudry v Prabhakar – 1989?

I don't believe this is a duplicate of other 'advice on stack exchange' questions, as it addresses more specific concerns. Also, I posted this on the main site rather than on Meta as it's an interesting legal question in its own right.

Also I acknowledge that there may be selection bias in responses by legal professionals prepared to answer this. *8')

  • I honestly have a hard time understanding such concerns. Today I am WoJ. You do not know me. Tomorrow I can claim to be Lord Reed (seems like an important lawyer in the UK). Telling you that it is fine to grab that sandwich and run away. Who will you sue? (by "you" I do not mean specifically you of course) – WoJ May 29 at 19:41
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Chaudhry v Prabhakar is unlikely to be applicable

Giving specific advice one-on-one in a field of known expertise when specifically asked creates a duty of care. Giving general advice on a mass-communication forum to general questions when all parties are aware that specific legal advice is specifically off-topic doesn’t.

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I do wonder whether the site disclaimer is sufficient to protect against a claim for incorrect advice however.

Yes, the disclaimer is sufficient.

The disclaimer impliedly puts a person on notice that he should not blindly rely on the answer(s) to his question. Law SE also states very clearly that "the answers are not legal advice", which further precludes the sort of reliance on which Chaudry is premised.

Oftentimes some of us include references of law which are available online for free. This gives users the opportunity to verify for themselves the substance of our answer(s) and read further if they wish. Simultaneously, this habit preempts the issue of user's reliance insofar as that user is put in a position (or closer thereto) of being able to make an informed decision regarding his matter.

In Britain, precedent such as Chaudry v Prabhakar – 1989 can make British lawyers reticent to give informal advice, even when outside of a professional or business context.

The Chaudry decision reflects that the "knowledgeable" defendant was quite sloppy. Accordingly, a lawyer should be reluctant to post sloppy answers on Law SE, be it on grounds of the consequences of a sloppy answer or on grounds that the lawyer's sloppiness itself tends to undermine the so-called "public confidence in the legal system".

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    Would a disclaimer on red shoes, stating "these shoes are not red, they are not suitable for any purposes where red shoes are required, nor are they suitable as a substituted for red shoes", make the shoes legally-speaking "not red" ? – grovkin May 29 at 16:58
  • @grovkin no, the first part of the disclaimer is wrong and the remainder is not claiming the colour. Merely the person who wrote the disclaimer doesn’t guarantee the suitability of the shoes some purposes. Although using a nonsensical example isn’t especially helpful. Substitute “red” for “steel toe capped@ and I doubt you’d object? Or imagine a Halloween-costume ‘harness’, a mock-up of one used as safety gear when working at height. A disclaimer could validly say “this is not a real harness, this is not suitable for any purposes where a harness is required” - and I think that makes sense? – Tim May 29 at 17:44
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    @grovkin Your illustration misses the point: namely, the issue of whether a user's reliance [on the object of the disclaimers] is reasonable, more so where the sense of the disclaimers impliedly discourages blind reliance on that object. Actionability depends on that issue and was decisive in Chaudry, regardless of whether or not the Chaudry decision is adequate for non-business or non-professional contexts. – Iñaki Viggers May 29 at 18:18
  • @grovkin another situation involves electronic components used in medical devices. Component manufacturers will often state "not for use in medical or life-saving equipment". They will do this even if they offer a medical grade order code with an identical specification or it is a generic part. Relying on the disclaimer protects them from liability if the specification was in error and a medical device fails and hurts someone because of this. – crasic May 29 at 20:08
  • Perhaps instead of using the phrase "legal advice", a disclaimer should specify that it is not "professional legal advice". The concept of "professional advice" doesn't merely refer to advice delivered by someone who happens to be a professional, but rather to advice upon which the professional has invested enough effort that he'd be willing to stake his reputation. In many cases, the amount of effort to answer questions with 90% certainty is far less than what would be required for 99.9% certainty. The effort for the former may be low enough to be given away free. The latter, usually not. – supercat May 29 at 20:15

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