Bad advice — whether it’s career, relationship, or legal advice — can come from anywhere, even from those whose job it is to give advice, like advice columnists and financial advisors. This doesn’t mean you should only seek advice from family and friends. If you did, you’d have very limited sources of wisdom.
Also, the internet is teeming with useful information and many strangers online are just dying to give free advice. You’d be missing out if you limit your sources to only people you know, who can also give terrible advice. Just imagine how dreary life would be if Walt Disney listened to his wife’s suggestion not to make Snow White.
That said, as family law and personal injury attorneys, we strongly advise against seeking legal counsel from the likes of your Aunt Lydia, your cousin Barry, your opinionated Facebook friends, or some strangers on Reddit.
If you’re going to seek advice on Reddit, check that it’s one on a thread with lawyers
Speaking of Reddit, one poster had the bright idea to post on a Reddit thread to seek recommendations on a divorce attorney, as he was going through a divorce. When we say it was a “bright idea,” we mean it: it IS wise to seek recommendations for a good family law attorney when you’re about to go through a divorce. And seek one who is from your state.
But one of the posters in the forum (a non-lawyer, just a person with an opinion) offered the following piece of advice that caused chaos in the soon-to-be-divorced person’s life:
“You don't have to hire the best or most expensive attorney. You need to consult with the top family attorneys in town. The lawyer cannot represent your ex-to-be if you've discussed your marriage with them. It's a conflict of interest. Read up on it, there are a few tricks you can pull to help even the playing field.”
The first sentence is not entirely idiotic. It’s true that you don’t have to get the most expensive lawyer to get favorable outcomes or win a case. The poster was right about the conflict of interest too. But it was all downhill from the second sentence onwards.
The man looking for recommendations, unfortunately, did follow the advice. He consulted 30 divorce attorneys in town to prevent his wife from hiring any of them, thanks to a little thing called conflict of interest (see: RPC 1.7 CONFLICT OF INTEREST: CURRENT CLIENTS). He met with numerous attorneys so when his wife attempted to consult them, they’d have to recuse themselves from representing her.
Interestingly, the man admitted that he could not afford a lawyer. And his wife — who could afford a lawyer and presumably was the thinker in the relationship — was able to hire a lawyer anyway. His wife’s team filed a motion for attorneys fees, saying that what he did was an abuse of process, that he acted in bad faith, and that he attempted to deprive and interfere with justice.
What do you know — acting in bad faith can actually backfire.
Character development: We love to see it
We wouldn’t blame you if you thought that he got exactly what he deserved. Don’t feel too bad for the man, though. He didn’t have a happily ever after as far as their divorce was concerned, but at least he eventually found a lawyer to represent him.
According to an update he posted on Reddit, the judge denied his wife’s request for him to pay her attorneys fees, calling it meritless and an attempt to make him look bad. Eventually, however, the exes were able to reach an agreement over their kids’ custody without much drama. He added that he has since been harmoniously co-parenting with his ex and his relationship with his children has been great.
He has also vowed never again to take legal advice from the Reddit thread with the lawyer wannabes.
In sum, don’t take legal advice from internet strangers — not even from legal blogs
You wouldn't go to a brain surgeon for dental surgery and you wouldn’t look to social media influencers to gain insights into the human condition. The same principle applies when it comes to legal matters — you should never take advice from someone who isn't a lawyer. The reason for this is simple: non-lawyers don't have the training or experience necessary to give sound legal counsel.
Seeking legal advice from strangers online and following bad legal advice can lead to disastrous consequences and being subjects in viral Reddit threads.
We don’t usually offer advice (legal or otherwise) in this blog, but we are feeling generous today, so here’s one: if a stranger online has a legal blog like this one, chances are that they are lawyers. Like us. Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams are family law attorneys in Washington State. Call our law offices in Renton or leave us a message.