My advice is …

I know nothing about UK legal ethics rules. I don’t even know if the UK has legal ethics rules. But I’m pretty sure this site would not pass muster in the US.

This from Bob Ambrogi, a Massachusetts (US) lawyer, referring to the (UK) Expert Legal Advice service in association with Net Lawman. This service provides by email (and will provide later by telephone) “fast, accurate legal advice on: business and commercial law; land law (including leases); contracts and t&c; company and partnership law” via prepaid units. So, what’s the big deal?

NL Advice is provided by a team of solicitors in New Delhi supported by the same precedents and sources as are available to UK solicitors. These are very bright people who have shown a real knowledge of English law before they even begin to look at legal source material. … we are not solicitors, we do not offer a full range of legal services.

You could argue with the wording, but the provenance of the advice is certainly not in unreadable small print and they also allude to its origin with the main site graphic.

So is this service hunky dory according to UK legal practice rules? Legal Eagle, a Melbourne (Victoria, Australia) lawyer, mother, part-time academic, PhD student, artist and illustrator responds to Bob’s post, looking at section 20 of the Solicitors’ Act 1974 and rule 20 of the International Code of Ethics 1988 established by the International Bar Association. The Solicitors’ Act refers to the functions that are only to be conducted by qualified solicitors and the International Code prohibits delegation by lawyers to the legally unqualified “not in their employ and control” of any of these functions; giving basic legal advice is not one of these. Others more qualified may care to comment.

Legal Eagle also points to an excellent post by John Flood on legal outsourcing.

More on the ethics of legal advice outsourcing is on (US) and Slaw (Canada).

So what’s my advice? Always read the About page.

One thought on “My advice is …”

  1. Surely only barristers abide to a code of ethics for barristers. Certainly a layman shouldn’t any more than a barrister should abide by the code of ethics of an accountant. The main concern should be whether outsourcing services are contravening UK law. Unfortunately I am not sufficiently qualified to comment – I am not trained in law.

    As for whether legal advice is valid if the source of the advice is not a practising lawyer, we come across advice every day, often given by people who are not experts in the field. Whether we choose to accept, and more importantly act on this information is our choice.

    In deciding whether to act on advice, we should judge whether the adviser is sufficiently knowledgable, not just on whether they were trained in the UK. If in doubt, we can always seek a second opinion. The beauty of online, outsourced legal advice is that not only it can be used as a second opinion, but also as a sounding board before a solicitor is consulted.

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