Nearly Legal has a beef about sub-standard “free legal content”. I’m with him.
In Part 1 he looks at two services who peddle useless “legal” information for their own gain for SEO purposes. His exemplars are firstly Forward3D, an SEO agent for Irwin Mitchell, who wonder if he might “be interested in sharing some unique and relevant content put together by our experts on your blog”. Turns out it’s not so unique and it’s not at all relevant to NL. Then Contact Law, a Thomson Reuters company, who are “currently looking for potential partner sites to provide law related content for”. Asked for an example Contact Law provide NL with a piece that is “vague, pointless and hopeless drivel”.
Nearly Legal is right to be grumpy. These are representatives of major players, peddling vacuous and inadequate content in pursuit of Google juice. We need to do more than just ignore it or get over it as some of his commentors suggest. Such content is dangerous. Further:
Anyone with a site who is tempted to run this “free content” (let alone get paid for it), should, in my less than humble opinion, take a long very hard look at their self-respect and reflect carefully upon any aspirations to professionalism they may once have had.
Part 2 of his beef concerns free legal information/advice published by Law on the Web. This piece is also getting an airing on Guardian Law. He dissects several Law on the Web articles on housing law and finds them seriously wanting:
Here is the real issue. The “legal information” provided is at least in part practically useless, and in part downright wrong. There is no indication whatsoever (at least on the current site) of the source of the information, or whether it is provided by someone experienced or knowledgeable in the subject (although that seems very doubtful).
Lucy Reed on Pink Tape does a similar hatchet job on several of their family law articles.
It should be noted that Law on the Web was set up in 1999 by solicitor Martin Davies under whose stewardship the site won several awards. He sold it to Everyman Legal Ltd in 2010. They have radically changed the service but continue to trade on his reputation.
The view of many such sites offering free legal information seems to be that because they’re not charging for it and they’re not bound by professional rules or under any duty of care, they can employ unqualified, hence cheap, writers to provide potted summaries of the law which will earn them the Google juice they crave and be useful enough to draw their readers in to earn them a buck using their remunerated services – and if the content is a bit wrong, so what?
Well, the “so what” is that they will be exposed by those who care – about accuracy, about standards and about access to justice.