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Given the community's concern about dispensing legal advice, I wanted to flag the arrival of "Lawyer," a new user whose answers suggest he is not a lawyer of any kind.

It may be problematic to have a non-lawyer holding himself out as a lawyer and providing insane answers, especially when he's responding to questions that seek legal advice, and doing so with answers explicitly advising users "what to do" about their legal problems. He is likely putting himself in a UPL situation; whether that has any bearing on the forum's liability, I can't say.

Do we have any restrictions on usernames or anything similar that we ought to be looking at in this case?

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  • 2
    In fairness, "Hire a lawyer to deal with this" is entirely reasonable advice. The rest of the post is ...less good.
    – Ryan M
    Feb 25 at 5:48
  • 3
    While it is concerning, I'm not sure how we'd police this generally. It's pretty darn clear in this case that the poster is not, in fact, a lawyer, but in the general case, we have no way of knowing. We could maybe draw the line at "if your answers are really bad and you tell people what to do, you can't say you're a lawyer" but that's ...really vague.
    – Ryan M
    Feb 25 at 5:50
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    Maybe the forum's overall opinion of the quality of a user's contribution could be sufficient policing in itself, such as down votes or mod suspension. This, not entirely unrelated, question offers this comment: Given the significant low scores they've managed to collect, is it more likely that this activity is enhancing or damaging the brand?
    – Rock Ape
    Feb 25 at 11:33
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    The user is currently in the suspended state on most likely several sites: they asked how to get out of the automatic ban on the main meta.
    – Trish
    Feb 26 at 1:31
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    Also, after about... -20 or such, that question was deleted.
    – Trish
    Feb 27 at 21:50
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I think the answers by this user may be a problem, but not because s/he is "holding himself out to be a lawyer". Aside from the user name, nothing about this user suggests that s/he is in fact a lawyer, nor does s/he specifically claim to be one, that I have seen.

Nor do I think this user's answers are anything close to UPL. Certainly the one linked in the question is not. In any case Section 230 of the CDA would protect the site.

The problem is that this user is posting low quality answers, with no cited sources, and incorrect or incomplete information.

We do, by the way, have at least one regular who does state that he is a lawyer, and one who identifies as a law student. But that has not been a problem as far as I can see.

-1

There are (or were) two issues with this user.

The first was that they were posting crap. This is not as much of an issue as it seems. Users posting incorrect, unhelpful, or even harmful answers is not a new thing and Stack Exchange has several methods of dealing with this. These are working- the garbage answers were downvoted and deleted and the user was suspended.

The second was the user passing themselves off as a lawyer. Enforcing problematic usernames has always been part of the site. We should add the following rule:

Usernames on Law.SE may not imply any legal representation, or professional standing. This includes, but is not limited to, names including words such as "lawyer" or titles such as "esq".

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  • Would you also impose a rule that a user's profile cannot include a statement that the user is lawyer? What would you do if it turns out that the user was in fact a licensed lawyer? Mar 1 at 13:42
  • @DavidSiegel If necessary, though reading profiles takes more time and effort. I don't see what the user actually being a qualified lawyer has to do with this.
    – Unfair-Ban
    Mar 1 at 14:01
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    If "passing [one]self off as a lawyer" is a problem, people who say that they are lawyers in their profiles are a problem. At least one user does this. In that case I am confident this is accurate. But I doubt that anyone here has verified such a claim. In short I don't think simply having a username "lawyer" is "passing off" and I think that there should not be any rule against such a name. Mar 1 at 14:06

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