The Risks of Doing Your Own Legal Research v Seeking Attorney’s Help

doing your own legal researchDespite the wide availability of legal information online that allows you to research just about any legal issue on your own, you should treat any such information you find on the internet with a grain of salt, and this is for two key reasons:

(a) Your own research will reveal what you theoretically can do, but this doesn’t mean that this is what you actually should do, i.e. this doesn’t mean that practically taking the step you can take is in your best interest. For instance, let’s say you feel harassed at workplace and you learn online that you have the right to file a harrasment complaint with your HR. But does this mean that you should do it? And if so, when? More importantly, can you afford the risk of being retaliated against and possibly losing that job? You are not going to find answers to these questions online, because none of the resources that are out there on the interent can take your own unique circumstances into consideration.

Here is another, even more obvious example – you were rearended very, very lightly on the road, where the driver at fault basically lift a small scratch on your already less than perfect bumper. Legally, you can bring claim against that driver for negligence, but is this worth trouble, given the potential of receiving such modest compensation? Again, your legal research will likely not provide you with what you should do in your specific situation.

(b) Your own legal research might lead you to making incorrect evaluation of your own legal situation or of your potential legal claims against someone. Finding different laws and regulations online is not hard. On the other hand, applying the law to the facts of your own situation critically and objectively requires legal training and also practical experience of handling similar issues and being able to assess what your chances of proving your case are. This necessarily requires consulting with an experienced attorney in the relevant area of law. For instance, you may suspect that you were terminated from your job because of your race. After a brief legal research you find the laws that prohibit race discrimination. However, assessing whether you have sufficient evidence to prove that you were terminated in part or in whole because of your race is a nuanced task, which is almost never obvious and which requires significant legal training and evaluation of available evidence.

If you are facing a serious legal decision, such as bringing or defending a claim, do not just rely on your own legal research. Instead, make your own research a starting point, so that when you seek your lawyer’s help, you are already more educated about the relevant legal issues, and you are able to ask better questions and make better decisions quicker, having all the important information before you.

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