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I don't want more downvotes. I want to clarify a comment I saw:

That's not how Stack Exchange works. Ask your lawyer.

Does this feel a tad uncongenial or unsociable to anyone else?

Can't we say this for most questions here? Most questions can be presented to lawyers? But I definitely can't afford lawyers to do this.

Aren't we supposed to distinguish the easy and difficult questions? If Law Stack Exchange can answer an (easy) question, we're saving people money because they don't have to hire lawyers! If we can't answer a (difficult question), then someone here will comment or answer that the querent should hire a lawyer.

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  • Can you, please, add a link to the question (or answer) which received this comment?
    – grovkin
    Jul 24 at 20:28
  • @grovkin such a link is currently included in my answer. It was edited out of the question, see the editing history. Jul 26 at 17:20
  • @grovkin I linked to that comment in my post above, when I first wrote it. But animuson♦ removed the link. I'm afraid that if I add it back, a moderator will suspend me.
    – NNOX Apps
    Jul 28 at 5:07
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Does this feel a tad uncongenial or unsociable to anyone else?

It's a little blunt. It might even nudge the line on unacceptable behaviour but it hasn't been flagged so it doesn't seem to be offending anyone. We tend to be a little bit more robust in our interactions than other Stack Exchange sites.

Can't we say this for most questions here? Most questions can be presented to lawyers?

Yes and yes.

However, what is being referred to is the prohibition on legal advice:

Please don't ask questions seeking legal advice on a specific matter. These are off-topic for Law Stack Exchange. While users generally contribute answers in good faith, the answers are not legal advice, and contributors here are not your lawyer.

In most jurisdictions, it is illegal to practice law without a licence. So, while we can answer general questions about the law, we can't give legal advice.

See:

In the specific case, its the difference between asking about retail tenancy law in Hong Kong in general, and asking about the specific rights and obligations of this tenant under this lease.

Aren't we supposed to distinguish the easy and difficult questions?

A user isn't "supposed" to do anything - they are a voluntary contributor to a free website and have no obligations to the OP. They have a contract with Stack Exchange and they have an obligation to comply with that, but it imposes no obligations on them to answer or not answer questions.

If Law Stack Exchange can answer an (easy) question, we're saving people money because they don't have to hire lawyers! If we can't answer a (difficult question), then someone here will comment or answer that the querent should hire a lawyer.

We can answer both easy and hard questions. We cannot give legal advice. If the answer to the question requires legal advice then it doesn't matter how hard it is - the law says only a lawyer can answer it.

Just like the law in most jurisdictions says you can't give medical advice, or do plumbing, or electrical work unless you are licenced, you can't give legal advice unless you are licenced.

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The comment refereed to, in my opinion, violates the code of conduct for this site, specifically the principles:

  • If you’re here to help others, be patient and welcoming.
  • No subtle put-downs or unfriendly language.

The comment has, since the answer by Dale M was written, been flagged and removed, so the part of that answer which says:

it hasn't been flagged so it doesn't seem to be offending anyone.

is no longer correct.

We do indeed have a policy against requesting or providing specific legal advice. This is in part because of laws against the "unlicensed practice of law" or UPL. But that is not the sole, or even the main reason for that policy here. In some jurisdictions UPL applies only to actions done for a fee, and in many advice on a forum such as this one, given our disclaimer, would not be treated as UPL.

More importantly, an actual lawyer giving advice to an actual client can ask about details of the issue on a level that is normally not practical in a forum such as this, and can therefore give advice carefully tailored to the specifics of the client's needs. A lawyer has available research tools not accessible to many of those who provide answers here. And a lawyer has a level of regular experience not shard by most non-lawyers providing answers here. Moreover, an actual client could engage in a back-and-forth interaction with a lawyer, getting advice further modified to suit the initial results of actions and further information that might bear on what are desired and useful answers. That is not normally practical on a forum such as this. For all these reasons, it is unwise for a user of this forum to rely on answers in the way that one might rely on actual legal advice, and unethical to provide advice as if it could be so relied on. While I hope that all answers provided will be accurate, they cannot take into account all the details which might make a difference, and which might well be provided during an actual lawyer/client interaction. This is true even when the person providing an answer here is in fact a licensed and experienced lawyer, as some are.

The comment complained of here was no doubt intended to suggest that the question was in violation of this policy, or was nearing such violation. There has been significant debate here as to just where the line between acceptable information and specific legal advice lies. See for example Excessive use of "specific legal advice" closure reason and other threads under the legal advice tag

The question to which the comment referred to was posted was this one. In my opinion this was not a request for specific legal advice (RSLA) under our policies, and should not be closed as such. Nor has it yet been so closed, although one user has called for closure on that ground, and two others for closure or improvement on other grounds (two different grounds). I think it is important to have a link to the question here, to see the context of the original comment.

It is appropriate to make a comment that a question has approached being an RSLA, or indeed has gone over that line. It is also perfectly proper to warn a user that answers here should not be relied on in the same way and to the same degree as answers obtained in a lawyer/client relationship. Indeed the disclaimer present on every Law.SE Q&A thread does carry such a warning. It is IMO not proper to provide such a warning in as blunt and potentially intimidating a manner as the comment being discussed in this thread did.

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