The issue of "Is X (Il)legal" questions has come up recently (brought up by another moderator, but even so) but I suspect it's part of a broader issue – the law seems inaccessible to many, and questions about the law therefore become "can I do this?"

On Worldbuilding, they've composed a list of yes or no questions to guide users in writing a good post.

I'm wondering whether Law might benefit from a similar list of questions. This post is the first of a three-step process, a sounding board for whether we think that it'd be a good idea. If (after a little bit of time) it seems like people generally like it, we can then collect some questions, and then write up the post.

Remember, this isn't a panacea for all bad questions, but it would be useful if we had a community-curated list of ways to ensure that the questions are high quality and have meaningful and useful answers.

(Also, I know I said comment but in this case, I mean comments as answers, I guess.)


3 Answers 3


I obviously like the idea. Here's some of my thoughts:

  • In the list of questions/tips, we can steer people away from vague "Is X Legal" questions If you're asking whether something's illegal/legal, have you included some reason why you think it might be illegal?
  • We can also point them towards legal resources (and good questions on main outlining how to interpret legal resources) If your question is about legislation, have you searched Aust/World/BAILII for the text?
  • Our list of things need not be as long as Worldbuilding's but it should have clear criteria for what should and shouldn't make the cut.
  • We could also point people towards tag wikis as a repository of canonical answers (which we can/should then build up) If you've included a common tag (let's say, more than 50 questions posted with it), have you checked the tag wiki to see whether the information there answers your question?
  • I like the points listed here, but I'm not sure whether we should be using tag wikis as a "repository" for answers. They are largely inaccessible and not very flexible, requiring approval by high rep users or moderators to even bring changes to them. In my opinion, they should be used for explaining the meaning of the term that the tag is used for (such as an article over common law systems, for example), and could have questions as "extra reading" - but definitely not solely as a repository.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 1:55
  • 1
    law.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/approve-tag-wiki-edits: Tag wikis are a general introduction to a topic defined by that tag. They're a place to consolidate and form a sub-community around a tag. They contain, among other things, frequently asked questions in the tag, top users in the tag, and best recent answers in the tag.
    – jimsug
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 2:05
  • @Zizouz212 obviously you're still right about tag wikis not being very flexible but I suspect that that wouldn't be an issue here, as it's unlikely that we'll need to edit them very often.
    – jimsug
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 2:09
  • I hear you. I think my concern was that we would use the tag wiki solely as a repo for questions - and not go in to explain the subject of the tag.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 21:29
  • Ah, I see - no, not my intention; if it can't/shouldn't work that way, that's fine, but I think tag wikis aren't often used and for pretty good reasons you've outlined, plus they're tucked away.
    – jimsug
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 23:25

Rather than steering people away from "Is X (il)legal?", perhaps we should ask (and answer) it here on Meta or the main site as a hypothetical?

Effectively the answers should be a quick 101 on how legal systems work and cover jurisdiction, common/civil law, statutes, contracts, disputes and dispute resolution (including courts). Shouldn't take more than 30-40,000 words :-).

  • Would be happy to see a canonical answer on this; not necessarily putting my hand up for it ;)
    – jimsug
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 7:24
  • But also this isn't necessarily just about "Is X illegal", but all kinds of questions that might not have enough detail, or research, etc... Maybe not necessarily closeworthy, but maybe those that have languished without answers for some time now and are likely to do so, for reasons other than "no one has an answer to them".
    – jimsug
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 7:25
  • I do look forward to the day Law.SE replaces legal textbooks, at least the basic ones. Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 9:54

When I see questions on Law.SE, the first thing I want to know is the jurisdiction: what law are you asking about? Otherwise the question is nonsense. You cannot ask a meaningful question on Law.SE without identifying the jurisdiction (or specifying that you are asking a comparative law question).

It isn't necessary to identify an area of the law (e.g. contract law, criminal law). A legitimate question can span several areas of the law. Often the first question would be 'What area(s) of law are relevant to x?'

  • I think this presupposes a level of legal sophistication that most casual posters just don't have, a lot would need to be told what a jurisdiction is!
    – Dale M Mod
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 13:58
  • Agreed that identifying the area of the law will be something that answerers will often need to edit the question to do, but at the very least we can (and already do!) ask people to add a jurisdiction/location where necessary.
    – jimsug
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 14:15
  • @DaleM, agreed, we need to deliver a certain amount of legal education before the asker can even ask a sensible question. Like what you mentioned in your post about a '101' page. Or it can be framed as 'Where are you and the other people involved located?' to at least get a start. Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 9:49
  • An observation: Most questions here have been about U.S., Great Britain or Australian law. Most of which is common. Yes, there are important differences. But not much. (Relatively speaking, when compared to completely different systems. e.g. Sharia) Beyond that, when regional jurisdiction matters (important differences exist) it usually gets clarified. Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 10:24

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