What is ‘Legal Advice?
It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between legal advice and legal information. A lawyer can only give legal advice. Non-lawyers may simply recite legal information. It is illegal for non-lawyers or unlicensed attorneys to give legal advice, or represent anyone else in court.
Legal advice is not legal information. It refers to written or oral advice about legal matters that could affect the rights and responsibilities. Actual legal advice is based on careful analysis of the law in relation to a particular situation. This is different from speculation based upon generic facts.
Legally speaking is the same thing as practicing law. Only licensed attorneys can give legal advice to clients who have established an attorney-client relationship. The advice-giver has certain responsibilities because of the legal advice they are required to provide.
Anyone who gives legal advice, whether knowingly or not, without the ability, judgment or authority to do so, is essentially engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. They are subject to penalties.
What is legal advice?
Legal advice is not given by friends and family. An agreement between an attorney, client and counsel is true legal . It is based on the specific legal matter that the client is facing.
The following are the characteristics of legal advice:
- This requires legal knowledge, skills, education, and judgement.
- It applies specific laws to a particular set or circumstances
- It can affect someone’s legal rights and responsibilities
- This creates obligations for the adviser
Legal advice is different from legal information (e.g. information on a street sign), which suggests a course of action that a client should follow. It’s the difference between telling someone what they should do (legal advice), and showing them how to do it (legal info). Here are some examples of legal advice:
Drafting or completing legal documents and agreements that have an impact on a person’s legal rights.
- Represent a person in front of a court or another governing body
- Negotiating legal rights and responsibilities for a person
- Speculating about the outcome of the client’s case
- Filling out and selecting specific forms for a client
Specific legal advice questions may include:
- Do I need to file for bankruptcy?
- Is my disability eligible for federal assistance
- What type of recovery is possible for an accident?
What legal advice is not
Legal advice is direct and specific and suggests a course of actions. Legal information is more general and factual and doesn’t address any particular cause. Websites and individuals will go to great lengths not to make it clear that the information on their sites should not be considered legal advice or a lawyer-client relationship.
Examples which do not constitute legal advice
Information about legal matters can be obtained free of charge from online legal websites. This includes information from a law firm website or an attorney’s website.
- Refer to family, friends, and former clients.
- Radio information
- Information found on social media sites
- Information that you see on billboards or in news periodicals
Even if provided by a licensed lawyer, responses to legal questions posted online in Q&A boards will be given
Print materials included in a “how to” guide
Specific legal information questions might include:
- What’s in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMA)?
- What is the BAC limit for drunk driving in my state?
- What laws govern gun ownership in my state?