The sheer volume of information available on the internet has inspired many to adopt a do-it-yourself approach to solving everyday problems, for everything from fixing a leaky faucet to treating poison ivy. But can you trust all aspects of your life to the internet, including your legal problems?
You may think that legal information isn’t any more mysterious or challenging than any other kind of knowledge. But even though online legal information has proliferated, to benefit from the insights of reputable sources requires being an educated consumer.
Because different countries — and different jurisdictions within countries — have different laws, you will need to find information specific to your own jurisdiction. In Canada, that’s typically your province, although some areas of law, like criminal law, are consistent across the country. You should also be mindful of how recent the information is, since the law can change frequently.
Finally, as with all online information, you should consider the trustworthiness of the source. Are you reading a guide that is hosted by the court itself or by a government ministry? That’s likely reliable, as are cases published by a government source. Greater caution is needed if you’ve found a sample document, such as for a will or a separation agreement, on a privately-owned self-help site.
Beyond assessing the reliability of information, a larger challenge is determining how the information applies to you. Everyone’s personal situation is unique and complex, so using a one-size-fits-all DIY document can be a dangerous decision.
Because of the experience that comes with assisting others, lawyers develop an in-depth understanding of the range of legal solutions available, and of the way in which they apply in diverse situations. Especially for legal issues where the financial stakes are high, not only educating yourself but also seeking the guidance of a lawyer offers the best results.
NOTE: Local lawyer James Lozinsky has offices in Black Diamond and Okotoks for your convenience.