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Why You Shouldn’t Let Google “Diagnose” Your Legal Ailment

February 23, 2011

I admit, I’m one of those people that self diagnose medical ailments by inputting the symptoms into Dr. Google. But, even when I am certain I’ve properly diagnosed myself with a strange tropical disease during the dead of Minnesota winter, I get a second opinion from my real doctor. I question if people are as careful when they consult with Google, Esq.?  You should be.  And I learned why tonight.

I was planning on writing a post about terminating a lease if you are a victim of domestic violence and have an Order for Protection against your abuser. I knew Minn. Stat. 504B.206 allows just this if certain notice requirements are strictly followed. I wanted to include in my post a cite to a great tutorial put together by Lawhelp.org which walks through each step.

I opened Google and searched “breaking your lease after OFP Minnesota.” The top result was a link to answers on lawguru.com.  I decided to check it out and what I found were two very well written responses by Minnesota attorneys that were dead wrong. I am not going to link to the answer for fear of helping a wrong answer rise in the Google rankings.

I don’t know these contributors to Law Guru, but in this case they weren’t giving bad advice, the advice was stale.  Minn. Stat. Section 504B.206 was passed in 2007, after these answers were written.

Of course, there are some idiot attorneys out there.  And, despite the fact that Wikipedia is more reliable than the typical encyclopedia, you can’t fully trust everything you read on the internets. I didn’t know these contributors to Law Guru.  At first I was outraged they were so quick to give terrible information, but then I looked closer. I realized they weren’t giving bad information, the information was stale.  Minn. Stat. Section 504B.206 was passed in 2007, after these answers were written.  Lesson learned.

I admit, I consult Google, Esq. in the very initial stages of some of my research.  But, I never stop at the first link.  Also, remember my fellow attorneys and I spent three years in law school and spend countless hours on a regular basis working to perfect our ability to properly research legal issues.  I promise, it’s more difficult than you think. Just like getting a second opinion when you let Dr. Google diagnose your physical ailments, make sure you consult an attorney for your important legal issues.

This even goes for trusting the information on this site.  My opinions are legal based, but they are not legal advice.  The fancy legal disclaimer is not just for kicks and giggles.  An attorney is needed to properly analyze your legal debacle in the context of your specific facts.  A blog/wiki/tweet is not a substitute for the real thing.

Stepping off my soap box now.

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