Googling for Legal Information: The Good and Bad

On behalf of Peterson, Berk & Cross, S.C.

Perhaps you found this legal site’s webpage because you have a legal issue that you want free information about, and a Google search led you here.

As a consumer, I have often used a Google or other website searches to find free information.

Sometimes, that has been successful for me. For example, my dryer once stopped running, so I did a web search, found a repair video for my particular dryer symptoms, and the video showed a fix (showed me how a dryer fuse was the likely culprit and how to install a new dryer fuse). So I followed the instructions to install a new fuse in my dryer and… it worked (!!).

For one cycle. Then my dryer went kaput again. So I was back at square one, and about $30 lighter for the new fuse that I’d purchased and ruined.

The fact my web-inspired dryer fix did not work does not itself mean the how-to- video was ineffective. In fact, my botched repair was almost certainly caused by my terrible repair skills more so than the video’s content. The video was in fact competent in diagnosing a problem like mine, and in advising a reasonable potential fix for my dryer’s symptoms. (When I later talked to a repair person, he told me the video’s diagnosis and fix I saw were reasonable but just one of several potential matches for my dryer’s symptoms, and as it turned out, the wrong match).

I learned a lesson about internet searches and web-based fixes: sometimes, the nature of the problem- in my case, a $50-$500 problem of either repairing a dryer correctly and/or botching the fix and/or replacing the dryer- requires the actual presence and communication from someone who knows what they are doing.

The same is true of legal advice.

Doing a web search for legal information may be helpful to a certain extent. A web search, for example, may tell you some laws and some important issues that you had not previously taken into account when considering your problem. It may make you a better-informed consumer.

However, if you take action based on that web information alone- without talking to an attorney about your legal situation- you may wind up with the legal equivalent of a botched dryer repair. If the stakes involved are greater than a new dryer’s price tag (which IS often the case with many legal situations, whether people realize it or not), then that’s all the more reason to get legal advice from an attorney as compared to a website.

Please note that does not mean I’m saying you must get MY legal advice, or that of any paid attorney, just that legal advice you’d get from a competent attorney (whether private, non-profit etc.) beats website information however competent that information appears on its face.