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Is Reddit legal advice trustworthy?

Updated: March 28, 2023
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What Is Reddit Legal Advice?

Reddit Legal Advice is a forum on the popular discussion platform, Reddit. Reddit users can create subreddits, or specific forums centered on a certain topic, and then Reddit community members openly contribute to any discussion that may take place. The legal advice subreddit is displayed as r/legaladvice, and anyone who is seeking a space where they can talk about their legal issues and questions with the hope of getting some guidance or suggestions is welcome to share.

How Does the Legal Advice Subreddit Work?

To get started using r/legaladvice, you must first sign up for a Reddit account. All it takes is your email address, and then you'll be able to post specific details about your legal situation and share any questions you have for the forum's moderators. You'll want to share your city and state, as laws can vary depending on location, and make sure that there are no identifying parts to your post such as photos, license plate numbers, or the full names of involved parties.

Unless you choose an identifying user name, all posts by you are anonymous. The moderators providing some degree of legal advice are also anonymous. In this subreddit, nobody is paying for this service and nobody is practicing law without a license. In fact, the 21-person moderator team is made up of lawyers, but also subject matter experts in many fields, including law enforcement and child protective services.

Of course, there are a lot of rules surrounding who can offer real legal advice and in what circumstances they are allowed to, so the Reddit legal advice forum includes a disclaimer at the top to describe the form and function of the subreddit. It says, "A place to ask simple legal questions. Advice here is for informational purposes only and should not be considered final or official advice. See a local attorney for the best answers to your questions."

The description of the subreddit goes on to explain this space as a place to receive an answer to simple questions and to get an explanation of legal concepts about the law that's related to your situation. The idea behind the forum is for the moderators to point you in the right direction and help you determine what your next steps are for additional advice if needed.

Essentially, the r/legaladvice subreddit is a place for people who might need legal advice, but the people responding to comments are not technically giving legal advice.

Advantages of Reddit Legal Advice

As long as you know the exact purpose of the r/legaladvice subreddit, there are some advantages to using the platform if you come upon your own legal situation that you need help with. The advantages of the legal advice subreddit include:

  • Moderators: The 21-person team of moderators takes their role seriously, keeping a tight leash on what's allowed to come through as a post. They don't allow any posts that are offensive, off-topic, or abusive. They are also experts in their field and able to give guidance on topics they are very familiar with. There are more of a variety of subject matter experts here than you may find at a typical specialty law firm.
  • Anonymity : Legal matters can be personal, so if you want to get some advice without having to share who you are, this is a great forum to check out.
  • Free: This is a forum where you can get some level of advice without having to pay for it. It's a great alternative for those who can't afford an attorney's consultation fees.
  • Guidance: What the r/legaladvice subreddit was created for was to give some legal guidance to those who need it. Part of that is letting you know when you really should be speaking with an attorney about your case. Not everything can be addressed in this forum, but the moderators can tell you when your situation is beyond what they can personally assist with. Since a lot of people aren't aware of when they need to see an attorney, this can be very helpful.

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Risks of Using the Reddit Legal Advice Forum

As with anything so sensitive as legal advice, there are some risks involved with using a platform like this to get advice about your situation. The biggest risk is in moderators, or anyone else who comments on your forum post, providing bad advice. Unfortunately, it can (and does) happen, which can lead to devastating results. It's important to always remember that the advice received on r/legaladvice cannot possibly be all the legal advice you could ever need. The disclaimer at the top of the forum is there for a reason — so users know exactly why the forum exists.

Most posts on this subreddit give an overview of one's situation and are not as detailed as you may be expected to get if you were to retain and work with a lawyer who needs to know everything about your case. Your brief explanation, in comparison, doesn't give the Reddit moderator enough to go on to be able to provide the most thorough advice.

An attorney will ask pertinent questions to get the information they need to start working on your case or give you official legal advice. Especially when you consider federal laws, and different state and local laws, there is even more of a chance that a moderator could give you incorrect or incomplete information.

In one example, a Reddit user posted that his wife was seeking a divorce. He was upset at this decision and wanted to know how he could make the process difficult for her, so he took to Reddit with his question. Someone on the forum suggested that he could contact all the family law attorneys within a certain mile radius of his home with the idea that they could not represent his wife if he had first approached them.

The wife ended up having to go through even more work to start divorce proceedings, but once the court found out that the Reddit poster went to such lengths to make things harder for his wife, they ordered him to pay some of her court fees.

Things to Remember

If you keep these things in mind, you should have greater success in seeking legal advice:

  • Your situation is unique: Unless you're prepared to give detailed information to someone, anyone else won't have the whole story. It's important to be clear about what you're going through and to look for advice from someone who has a lot of experience in the field.
  • You get what you pay for: Reddit is free, which can be beneficial for many, but it may still be best to visit an actual attorney. Many lawyers offer free consultations so you can see if they are the right fit for your situation.

Although the Reddit legal advice subreddit can be helpful to some, it doesn't replace the advice of a qualified attorney who specializes in cases just like yours. Whether you need a contract looked over or a lawyer to represent you in court, it may be best to take advice from Reddit on what you should do next, or what kind of lawyer to seek out, but then do the extra leg work yourself to solve the legal situation you're in.

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