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I think a Legal Stack Overflow would be an excellent resource. Why doesn't such a thing exist? If it doesn't, I'd like to create one.

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marked as duplicate by ben is uǝq backwards, Manishearth, Martijn Pieters, Hugo Dozois, George Stocker Nov 21 '13 at 18:17

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

This belongs on Area 51? There already are proposals for that, but none in beta. –  doncherry Oct 13 '11 at 21:23
Related: Why “Software Law” was closed and Why “Intellectual Property Law” was closed on Area 51. –  user149432 Jun 26 '12 at 23:14
^ links broken. –  Daniel Pendergast Nov 21 '13 at 16:35
There is proposal area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/67858/law –  jcubic Jul 1 '14 at 19:00
I think this is a really bad idea. Any stupid troll has freedom to answer any law question and this can result into serious problems... –  Arulx Z Dec 25 '14 at 8:19
area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/67858/law is currently in the Commitment phase. –  antony.trupe Jan 11 at 20:38
@Aryan, just like any other stackoverflow... –  TheMightyLlama Apr 22 at 9:08
@ArulxZ: "Any stupid troll has freedom to answer any law question and this can result into serious problems." --> This is true for ANY StackExchange (SX) site, which is why SX has a system of voting, reputation and commentary to help the interested reader evaluate the quality and reliability of answers. It's not a perfect system, but anyone who thinks it is probably doesn't belong on the internet in the first place. :-) –  jvriesem May 27 at 21:17
If SX did create a Law site, there would probably have to be a disclaimer somewhere to this effect: "ignorantia legis neminem excusat" (ignorance of the law excuses nobody). A Law SX site could HELP direct people to the right resources (e.g. legal documents) for better info, and people could even advise others, but all of this is with the understanding that it may not be solid advice. –  jvriesem May 27 at 21:19
Not sure when it launched, but it looks like there is now a site for this at law.stackexchange.com –  Gary Barrett Jun 11 at 22:01

5 Answers 5

I asked a question and was given legal advice by BigSchween03 on your website. Apparently his
claim that it was perfectly legal to "take what's yours" wasn't based on current jurisprudence.

I was subsequently arrested and jailed for over a year. During the term of my incarceration, I was beaten and suffered degrading treatment by my co-inmates.

Because of this bad legal advice your website gave me, I am now suing you for everything you have ever owned, including that Star Wars lego set with the Hoth rebel base you loved when you were 7. I will be joined in my lawsuit by everybody else who got bad legal advice from users on your website.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have some more legal questions about my upcoming case I must submit to the community.

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That's what disclaimers are for. ;) –  Time Traveling Bobby May 13 '11 at 13:21
@Bobby: On your advice, I placed a disclaimer on my door that any female who enters may be molested. I was subsequently arrested and spent the next five years in jail. I am now going to sue you for everything you have owned, wanted to own, have seen, your family members have owned or thought about owning, and stuff you couldn't possibly want or afford. –  Won't May 13 '11 at 13:24
@Will don't give a ♦: If I'm allowed to quote Wikipedia: "The courts may or may not give effect to the disclaimer depending on whether the law permits exclusion of liability in the particular situation..." But I understand your point absolutely, a disclaimer is of course not an allround-always-working excuse, but I think (and by that I mean that I have no idea about U.S. jurisdiction whatsoever) that it is in this case. tbc –  Time Traveling Bobby May 13 '11 at 13:33
If the user hits agree when he gets told that "we can't guarantee anything and Stack Exchange had nothing to do with it" then that's his problem. I mean, Microsoft never got suit for all the havoc their software caused. Neither got General Motors. I've also never heard that a forum user got suit based on their advice to anyone. –  Time Traveling Bobby May 13 '11 at 13:37
@Bobby: If you have a website who's sole purpose is to answer legal questions can you possibly suggest that a disclaimer saying "don't take our advice, consult your lawyer, lol" will work in a court of law? –  Won't May 13 '11 at 13:37
@Will A disclaimer stating you intend to break the law is not what is under discussion here. –  NickC May 13 '11 at 16:25
@Will - Don't misconstrue my point. All I'm saying is that a straw man argument doesn't really add anything to this discussion. –  NickC May 13 '11 at 18:22
@Will Your argument in the second comment: The absurdity of a disclaimer announcing you intend to break the law. Bobby didn't suggest a disclaimer that would allow you to break the law. That's a straw man argument, then. –  NickC May 13 '11 at 19:16
@hippietrail: Nobody has gone to jail for suggesting the wrong GoF pattern, but plenty are in jail now for providing and taking incompetent legal advice. –  Won't Jul 18 '11 at 12:16
Am I the only one who feels that there is something terribly wrong with a legal system that makes it impossible for people to safely discuss the law "to the best of their knowledge". How are people supposed to learn about the law and how are they expected to know it in order to keep it, if we can't openly discuss it? –  couling Jan 8 '13 at 16:58
Isn't every contributor on every StackExchange site (and SE itself, for that matter) open to this same kind of risk? If I give someone advice on StackOverflow and their acting upon it somehow costs them their job, couldn't they sue me and SO over that? Why does it seem like only doctors and lawyers are paranoid about this sort of thing? Is it just that the crazy amount of litigation in their industries make a suit much more likely? Or is there some other fundamental difference? –  ToddR Mar 19 '13 at 14:30
@ToddR: giving legal advice is 100% different than everything else, as you are ... pooping in the bear's woods, so to speak. And medicine is a close second, for obvious reasons (I took your advice and blarg). Yeah, you can get in legal trouble everywhere, but the risk is not equal in all fields. –  Won't Mar 19 '13 at 16:25
@Won't: And we're all here for you if you need further emotional support. Also, don't sue Stack Exchange, Inc. You won't win, and you'll just be wasting yet more of your own and others' precious and wonderful lives. –  Slipp D. Thompson Apr 30 '13 at 7:26
I need some legal advice about software for myself. I'm not so much asking 'will I get in trouble for doing this' as much as I'm asking 'what can you tell me about this, and what else should I think about/consider.' –  ParrotMac Jun 7 '13 at 5:49
Yes, but that is for everything. Bad advise in any discipline can cause you be to killed, maimed, or suffer horribly. If we took this argument as correct, advice on how to operate a chainsaw would be the riskiest advise to give, not legal advise. –  Wisnoskij Sep 4 '13 at 18:35

Despite worries about liability (which Stack Exchange, Inc. will have to investigate internally), there are currently three proposals for law and related sites:

  • Software Law (Commitment phase: 28%)
    • Proposed Q&A site for lawyers and specialists in software-related law of both international and specific country laws.
  • Intellectual Property Law (Definition phase: Needs votes on examples)
    • Proposed Q&A site for lawyers and intellectual property specialists of both international and specific country laws.
  • Laws & Legal Questions (Definition phase: Needs followers, votes on examples)
    • Proposed Q&A site for lawyers and non-lawyers who have questions about different legal issues. Lawyers from different countries talking to each other (due to the large amount of international legal issues).

If you want one or more of these sites to succeed, I encourage you to commit, follow, or vote on them as needed until they are launched.

Update: These three proposals were closed on 2012-05-07 by Robert Cartaino as "not a real proposal" ("This proposal will not result in a useful, productive, or viable Q&A site")

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A downvote, eh? I chuckle in your general direction. ;-D –  Adam Davis May 13 '11 at 20:31
It wasn't me. I propose we make every member of Meta who didn't downvote this post a comment, so we can deduce who it was and give them the third degree! –  NickC May 13 '11 at 21:22
Good projects! pity that all of them have been deleted :( –  All Dec 14 '12 at 1:03
All of these proposals have been removed. –  Daniel Pendergast Nov 21 '13 at 16:26
@AdamDavis, Why are All three proposals deleted? –  Pacerier Dec 20 '14 at 12:55
@pacerier if a proposal doesn't gain enough attention quickly enough, it is closed and has to be resubmitted. Go to area51.stackexchange.com and read the faq and help questions for more info. –  Adam Davis Dec 21 '14 at 1:29
Dammit... I reaaaaaaly wanted to post a question on one of those, then tried to support, then sadly all were closed. mainly Software-Law –  hello_there_andy Jan 1 at 1:30
area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/67858/law is currently in the Commitment phase. –  antony.trupe Jan 11 at 20:39

I'm sorry to see that 3 Area51 proposals related to law were closed in 2012, and wonder if there is still interest in a revised approach.

Re the liability concerns, there is substantial protection in at least one big state. This is from the Wikipedia article on perhaps the largest existing online law site, Nolo.com:

In 1997, the Texas Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee (a committee of the Texas Supreme Court) opened investigations on Nolo and similar publishers, inquiring as to whether their publications constituted the practicing law without a licence. Saying that the investigation was "the first step toward widespread state censorship",[6] Nolo sued, seeking a declaratory judgment that its publications were legal. It was joined in the action by the American Association of Law Libraries and the Texas Library Association. In response, the Texas Legislature enacted HR 1507, which expressly exempted websites and textbooks from accusations of practicing law without a license, providing they "clearly and conspicuously state that the products are not a substitute for the advice of an attorney".[7] In light of this, the court committee dropped its contest of Nolo's suit.[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nolo.com

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There is still interest. –  beroal Jan 14 '13 at 9:32
The Internet needs a law advise forum. –  Wisnoskij Sep 4 '13 at 18:37
Cyberspace vs Engler might be of some help –  Vek.M1234 Jul 27 '14 at 14:07
If people are so concerned about legal action being taken for poor legal advice, then a non-US site is the answer where people are free to contribute. –  johntrepreneur Jan 27 at 18:53

I think this would be great, but I don't think it can work.

I am not a lawyer (blah blah), but I have a few lawyers in my family, and I have always found law to be an interesting topic (though I have never had any interest in actually practicing). I think that one of the reasons real lawyers would not want to give advice like this is that it is hard for them to know the whole situation in this type of forum, so they would not be able to give sound advice, and also, a lawyer giving legal advice may establish an attorney-client relationship in some jurisdictions, regardless of whether any fees were paid. This can mean the lawyer can be bound to certain obligations, such as attorney-client privilege. Likewise, discussing legal matters in a public forum may not make a whole lot of sense.

That being said, it would be awesome if there was a site like SO where I could research law-related questions that pop into my head, and get well-informed responses.

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I have a question. Is a hotel booking a "good" (which you paid for in advance) or a "service"? I believe such a question could be answered by a lawyer without too much additional context. –  PP. Feb 9 '11 at 9:01
@PP in which country? There are more than 150 countries in the world, probably with differing views on the question. –  Pëkka May 13 '11 at 7:44
@Pekka: Obviously that question only makes sense in the context of a jurisdiction, much the way a programming question usually only makes sense in the context of one of the 150+ programming languages in the world. –  Gabe May 13 '11 at 16:27
@Gabe: Right, but those 150+ programming languages are used all over the world, whereas Italian law will rarely be applied outside Italy. That makes a major difference for me. –  Hendrik Vogt May 19 '11 at 13:55
@Hendick: How does that matter? There are far more Italians than there are AS/400 programmers, yet there's no problem asking an AS/400 question on SO. –  Gabe May 19 '11 at 15:36
@Gabe: But will there really be so many more interested in Italian law than in AS/400? Still you have a point. Let me add another point: It would be a bit awkward to have a site about Italian law on an English-speaking network, wouldn't it? (Incidentally, note the "r" in my name.) –  Hendrik Vogt May 19 '11 at 17:35
@Hendrick: Italy, being part of the EU, probably has much law in common with English-speaking countries like UK and Ireland. Plus, English-speaking Italian legal experts could answer useful questions like "My website does X. What should I know to serve customers in Italy?". (I saw the "r" but made a typo.) –  Gabe May 19 '11 at 18:11
I'm having a hard time accepting the statement "Italy, being part of the EU, probably has much law in common with English-speaking countries", even just thinking about English-speaking countries –  Flexo Oct 13 '11 at 21:25

As of 2012, the sites that Adam Davis mentioned are closed.

There are currently two new proposals:

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These are now closed as well. –  Brad May 31 '14 at 19:11

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