In recent years, courts around the country have seen an upsurge in the number of lawsuits filed by people who do not have legal representation. Because court users are inexperienced with legal procedures, they frequently turn to court personnel for solutions to their legal questions.
As an attorney or lawyer, one must provide accurate information in a professional, collaborative, and timely way while avoiding offering legal advice. You are probably aware that you are not permitted to provide “legal advice” to court users. However, you may not be familiar with the term and so be uncertain while presiding over a legal matter.
As a result, when a person asks a question that blurs the boundary between legal information and legal advice, one may avoid providing relevant information regarding court procedures in order to avoid violating the Code of Ethics. Meanwhile, court users may feel irritated if they do not receive the information they require; more importantly, if they do not follow the proper procedure, they may be denied entry to the courts.
What is Legal Information and Legal Advice?
Legal advice may generally only be given by a licensed attorney, although there is a distinction to be made between “legal advice” and “legal information.” A non-lawyer or unlicensed attorney can merely recite laws, but it is prohibited for a non-lawyer or unlicensed attorney to provide legal advice or represent someone other than herself in a court of law. A licensed attorney is someone who has completed legal study and passed the state bar test.
By definition, legal advice is any written or spoken counsel about a legal matter that affects the person receiving its responsibilities and rights. It frequently necessitates knowledge of and thorough study of the law. Giving legal advice is a necessary activity of a lawyer and is synonymous with practicing law. Legal advice necessitates legal education and expertise, and it has an influence on the recipient’s legal rights. It also establishes a client-attorney connection.
Furthermore, genuine legal counsel requires a detailed examination of the law as it pertains to a person’s unique circumstances, as opposed to assumptions based on generic facts. According to Lawrina.com providing legal advice is akin to practicing law from a legal viewpoint, and only a licensed attorney with whom one has created an attorney-client relationship may provide genuine legal advice.
As a consequence of the information provided, the person giving advice is also tied to certain rights and duties as a result of the obligations that emerge from providing such legal advice. People who provide legal advice without the ability, judgment, or authorization to do so, whether deliberately or innocently, are basically engaging in the illegal practice of law and, as a result, are susceptible to court sanctions.
Legal information, on the other hand, may be provided by anybody who is familiar with the law. It is merely a description of the law, with no relevance to your own circumstances, allowing you to decide how to continue. Given the price of engaging a lawyer, it is important to understand when you want legal advice and when you merely require legal information.
It is important for a lawyer to reiterate the difference between legal advice and legal information. Legal information typically helps people understand the law and the legal system. Legal information for the public can be accessible via various sources. They include:
- printed brochures, product disclosure statements, information summaries, or fact sheets (including government publications)
- presentations delivered at conferences, seminars, webinars, and other training events
- websites with a substantial amount of legal material, including government websites, company websites, and law firm websites
- newsletters and blogs
Differences between legal information and legal advice
Legal advice is different from legal information. Advice is telling a client how the law applies to their situation and what they should do about their legal problem. In general, only lawyers can provide legal advice. However, there are some exceptions such as law students or community legal advocates who are supervised by lawyers may be able to provide legal advice.
Examples of the differences between legal information and legal advice:
Information is not Advice
Friendship or family advice does not make up legal advice. True legal advice is a contract between an attorney and a client based on a specific legal problem the client is facing.
In a nutshell, legal advice consists of the following features:
- Legal knowledge, competence, education, and judgment are required
- Applying precise legal rules to a given set of circumstances
- Affects a person’s legal rights or obligations
- Gives the advice-giver rights and duties.
Legal advice, as opposed to legal information, such as information placed on a street sign, suggests a specific course of action that a client should follow. It’s the difference between telling someone what to do (legal advice) and showing them how to achieve it (legal information).
Legal information can easily become out of date. It only needs a legislative change or a new judicial decision. And, sure, governments are continually altering laws, and courts issue new rulings on a daily basis. Legal information might become obsolete suddenly. Legal advice is precise, direct, and suggests a course of action, whereas legal information is factual, general, and does not address any one specific cause of action.
Legal information does not take into account one’s specific circumstances. Legal information is always presented in a broad, ‘in principle’ manner. However, the applicability of the law in any given case will always be determined by the circumstances at hand. This is because there is generally more than one legal theory at work in any particular circumstance. Legal material is not meant to give a proper and comprehensive solution to everyone who reads it.
Legal knowledge is, by definition, subjective. Legal information is, in essence, one person’s interpretation of the law. That person’s interpretation might be correct, but it could also be incorrect – either at the moment it is created or later on (in light of court decisions handed down after the event). Remember that most court disputes involve two competing teams of highly qualified attorneys offering conflicting opinions on how the law should function. And only one of them will be victorious.