There is a recurrent meme of legal matters being ostensibly too important to entrust to the advice of “anonymous people on the internet”. Yet many of these people may or may not be elite legal minds some with professional education credentials others not.

And who can deny that it really helps the research process by offering a stating point, especially when answers are referenced to authorities.

Furthermore stack exchange traces its heritage to internet and particularly wiki culture wherein credentialism is frowned upon and ideas are judged on their own merit and convincing ness rather than their source.

Great software giants including Google were built on similar cultural principles and regardless the whole premise of our community is the power of individuals sharing relevant knowledge with each other in response to one another’s questions.

Does the “random strangers on the internet” meme have any placeplace on stack exchange?

Comment thread: This random people on the internet meme is so fallacious and tiresome. It’s as though credentialed professionals can’t take advantage of you without helping, or can’t be inferior alone to the manifold more formidable online hive mind, or take one’s money and be useless, or not mislead one due to a conflict of interest, – Seeking answers 1 min ago Edit Delete or because of their ego and not wanting to admit ignorance, or being lazy and wanting to get rid of you because it doesn’t fit their business model in a readily apparent open and closed way, and as though they somehow immediately and automatically get smitten by disciplinary procedures for the above by an omniscient and omnipotent disciplinary trade body or as though online pseudonymous users cannot gain credibility through the inbuilt restoration system or through users developing organic familiarity – Seeking answers 29 secs ago Edit Delete with their eruditions over time and in any event, and perhaps most importantly, as though pseudonymous users’ contributions cannot be corroborated from authoritative sources. Some people like myself simply have a very Socratic/didactic learning style and meanwhile some information just lends itself better to being found by soliciting it from the hive mind than by cumbersomely scouring labyrinthine authoritative reference sources. – Seeking answers 5 secs ago Edit Delete The superior reliability of professionally dispense advice is as far as I’m concerned though admittedly subject to the caveats noted above a legal fiction decided to serve a mixture of protectionist rent seeking raqueteering and the perhaps somewhat genuinely well intentioned need for consumer protection recourses through professional disciplinary trade bodies, notwithstanding that these regulatory recourses are in many major jurisdictions and for the most part in practice seemingly to me entirely impractical or prohibitively arcane and expensive to navigate. – Seeking answers just now

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    I believed I see answers that warn about getting advice from random people primarily on questions that are from people in serious personal situations. If you are just curious, ask the hive; if you are in trouble, ask a lawyer. Also, you are misusing the terms legal fiction and restoration. Oct 23, 2023 at 15:51
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    What if you are in trouble but either cannot afford a lawyer or simply have not time than money? Do you think such a person would enjoy being endlessly admonished not to make use of the information that is made available to them? Oct 23, 2023 at 18:54

1 Answer 1


What if you are in trouble but either cannot afford a lawyer or simply have not time than money?

That are bad circumstances, but that does not make it ok to violate the strict rule to not ask for legal advice. It's strictly not on topic:

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.

Due to the ban, my standard answer is to comment with the disclaimer text and link to the disclaimer that we are not providing legal advice. That is not an admonishment, it is simply a more high-key pointer to the rules of the stack because the sidebar with the disclaimer can be missed.

Do you think such a person would enjoy being endlessly admonished not to make use of the information that is made available to them?

No, they will not enjoy being informed that we won't answer the question. But that does not change the fact that such a question is not allowed under the stack's rules.

But you need to see both sides: regular users of the Stack might feel annoyed by the Nth banned question in the week and reply somewhat snippishly with "get a lawyer". Technically we should strive to keep the tone better. One such comment that tries to strive for tone and at the same time conveys the information that we can not answer the question but that they should seek professional help in their area would be:

We can not provide individualized legal advice on law.stackexchange.com. If you require legal advice, it is generally advisable to contact a lawyer or legal clinic in your area and inquire about a free consultation.

Does the “random strangers on the internet” meme have any place on stack exchange?

That question is polemic at best and disingenuous at worst. The question needs to be: Does the random strangers on the internet "meme" have a place on Law. stackexchange? And the answer should be clear: Yes. Or rather, we should always treat things written here as random people and not written to gain a solution to a problem they face, because that would be seeking legal advice. We are not knowledgeable about the intricacies of the situation, and because we have a strict rule against legal advice, we don't even want to know the details. The ban on legal advice is one of the oldest bans on the stack and was discussed many times:

The only other ban that is about as old is the "IANAL/signature" ban.

The trend of answering a somewhat specific question that might be seeking legal advice with generalities is the exact opposite of an old question where some people did offer legal advice. It is in my opinion actually a good idea for those answers to call out that they only are a general pointer.

  • Yes but often even when a question is itself hypothetical, people presumptuously still snap back “if this is really the situation then you shouldn’t be asking about the topic to random strangers on the internet.” Oct 25, 2023 at 18:33

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