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As you can see, the /help/on-topic page isn't filled in yet.

The /help/on-topic page has now been updated with the below text.

We've been up and running long enough that we've developed a sense of questions that are, and aren't on-topic for the site.

Here are some of the key discussions and points that have been made:


With all of that in mind, here's what we're proposing for our on-topic page

This is now live on the page:

Law Stack Exchange is for legal professionals, students, and others with experience or interest in law.

The best questions are those that have specific answers; Law Stack Exchange is not a general discussion forum. In general, ask here if you have a question which covers:

  • Statutes or court decisions
  • Legal terms and language, doctrines and theory
  • Legal process and procedure
  • Historical legal applications
  • Dealing with legal professionals

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.

Please look around to see if your question has been asked before. It’s also OK to ask and answer your own question.

If your question is not specifically on-topic for Law Stack Exchange, it may be on topic for another Stack Exchange site. If no site currently exists that will accept your question, you may commit to or propose a new site at Area51, the place where new Stack Exchange communities are democratically created.

For more help, see "What types of questions should I avoid asking?"


What should be different? What should be in there, but isn't? What shouldn't be in there, but is?

  • We can modify this later through discussion and consensus, if we feel that things should/shouldn't be on-topic.

  • Please also note that, if we adopt this as our on-topic page, we will add a corresponding custom off-topic reason, to reflect the fact that legal advice questions are off-topic. The wording will likely be:

    Questions that ask for specific legal advice are off topic. See [this meta post].

    This off-topic close reason is now live

    We'll update a meta post with guidelines on rewriting a specific legal advice question and turning it into a general information question.

Important: If there's no slew of criticism on this post, then we will interpret this as assent. Despite Warnock's Dilemma, there's no way for us to force everyone to contribute to, and vote on, this proposal.
If you disagree with any part of this, please post a comment (or an answer, if your disagreement is lengthy/substantial. We want to discuss any issues about this, and this is your chance to help shape the direction the site will take. You can also ping any of the mods in chat and we will be happy to discuss it there.

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    I like it. Looks like the only thing we're explicitly saying no to is legal advice. And, we can change this frequently as we learn throughout the beta, right? – user248 Jul 23 '15 at 2:45
  • @nomenagentis Absolutely. The main reason that we're saying no to legal advice is largely for the reasons that Andrew outlined, as we definitely don't want to drive away lawyers. If there's a way to reconcile that desire with one to provide help to those who need it - perhaps later on through an aggressive editing policy where we encourage editing questions so that they don't ask for legal advice and can be answered and useful - then we can definitely edit it. – jimsug Jul 23 '15 at 2:49
  • @nomenagentis also see Andrew's comment on that answer, that basically says "you can ask things if they're general, and here's how". I may incorporate that into the information on this page (which is linked in that paragraph anyway). – jimsug Jul 23 '15 at 2:51
  • Oh wait, I should say - while we can change it frequently, we will probably want it to be relatively stable, i.e. unless there's some compelling circumstances, e.g. make things off-topic because we're already closing it frequently. – jimsug Jul 23 '15 at 4:33
  • If legal advice is off-topic, how is answering a question as to whether something is legal on-topic? (Accidentally posted this as an answer. Wups!) – bobstro Jul 24 '15 at 2:07
  • @bobstro The difference is "Currently the situation is X. Is it legal for me to do Y?" is probably going to be legal advice, whereas "Given a situation X. What legal avenues are available?" is legal information. See this post and this comment, not all of which is necessarily going to be codified, but is illuminating. It's generally clear when a question is asking for specific legal advice. – jimsug Jul 24 '15 at 2:10
  • @jimsug: Should we assume that this is intended to be limited to law within the confines of the United States? If somebody not from this culture is asking about legality of behavior, for example, are other considerations on topic that might relate to the situation? It's the tendency of SE sites to be focused on theory versus practical considerations that I'm trying to come to terms with. – bobstro Jul 24 '15 at 2:19
  • @bobstro 1) Nope, any kind of law is acceptable. See this discussion about localisation - in a nutshell though, the custom is: if you don't specify a jurisdiction, answerers will specify the jurisdictions that apply to their answer. 2) If you mean in answers, yes, so long as it primarily provides legal information. But this post relates to questions. – jimsug Jul 24 '15 at 2:30
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    @bob as for theory vs practical, as mentioned in your other meta post - this is a Law site. And law supervenes on so much of everyday life, if not all, such that it's hard to ignore the practical considerations, which is why I think they're definitely acceptable. But this isn't Common Sense Stack Exchange, it's Law Stack Exchange. The questions and answers need to reflect that. – jimsug Jul 24 '15 at 2:31
  • @jimsug: Fair enough, but "common sense" varies significantly by locale. Compare and contrast YouTube (won't promote raw site here) videos of behaviors that are "juvenile pranks" in the UK that wind up with individuals in the same circumstances thrown to the ground, arrested or shot in the US. Some jurisdictions are much more lenient, and I cringe at the thought of a visitor winding up in a world of hurt. – bobstro Jul 24 '15 at 2:35
  • @bob absolutely - there are jurisdiction tags for that, so if you are specifically asking about the UK, you can indicate it. Yes, there's a chance a passer-by might not see that, but there's always that chance. So I think the compromise is as noted above and in a couple of the answers to your other post - yes, include cautionary tales, but only as a supplement to your substantive legal answer. Unfortunately, we can't protect 100% of people from themselves all the time. – jimsug Jul 24 '15 at 2:39
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Thanks for the comments and the votes

As of right now, the question has 7 upvotes and no downvotes, and has been viewed 110 times.

The /help/on-topic page is live, with two minor changes since the last vote:

  1. The point:

    • Legal terms, doctrines and theory

    was changed to...

    • Legal terms and language, doctrines and theory
  2. The link in the paragraph:

    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.

    has been changed to point to this answer instead.

The custom off-topic reason will be live shortly is live now:

Questions that clearly ask for specific legal advice are off-topic. Please see: Questions that clearly ask for specific legal advice.

You can now select this as an off-topic reason. Please have a read through the meta post linked in the close description: Policy for questions that clearly ask for specific legal advice

Close dialog with custom off-topic reason

Close message with custom off-topic reason

Hopefully, this new close message, and the associated meta post, will help clear things up, and even lead to more questions being asked as people edit questions that might otherwise be/stay closed.


Please continue to use Meta to discuss the growth and scope of the site.

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