Being a proto-lawyer can have its challenges.
On the one hand, I get paid to learn about plenty of interesting legal, social and technical stuff that most people don’t have the time, inclination or resources to investigate on their own. In the morning I could be acquainting myself with the state of the art in lawn ornaments, and in the afternoon I might be reading text from hundred-year-old parliamentary debates over copyright terms.
But on the other hand, I have to be very careful about how I talk about legal issues both on my blog and in person. Obviously I can’t talk about my clients’ matters (for instance, I made up the bit about lawn ornaments), but there’s more to it than that. There’s a real danger that – if you and I aren’t appropriately cautious – my musing about legal topics could lead to trouble. For both of us.
The law can be pretty interesting. I have a fondness for talking about copyright and privacy in particular. They’re esoteric fields that are deeply entrenched in our social fabric, and it can be fun to pluck at the threads. But they aren’t just interesting theories, and this isn’t a classroom. These are real laws that have real consequences in the real world.
And here’s the crux of the matter – this may not be a classroom, but this isn’t a law office either. This is my personal blog. If I’m writing about something legal here, chances are good that I’ve done a bit of research into the general area that I’m talking about, but not nearly enough to qualify as the kind of professional legal advice that I prepare for my clients. And, unless I have your name on a file folder that’s sitting on my desk, you are not my client.
I want to be able to write about what I know and feel passionately about, including legal issues (or at least my perception of them). I want to be able to do so without fear that readers might rely on it to their detriment. So don’t rely on what I’ve written here. The things I write about here are just musings that might occasionally be based on some cursory legal research, and are not legal advice. I could be wrong, or there could be facts specific to your situation that change how the law applies. Either way, you could end up in real trouble.
You’re smart, and the fact that you are reading this tells me that you also have impeccable taste. That’s how I know that it’s highly unlikely that you will use what I’ve written here to get yourself into trouble. But I’m in the business of law, and I see highly unlikely stuff come across my desk every day. I wouldn’t be able to run this blog if I accepted liability for every reader who comes across it, despite how intelligent and sophisticated you undoubtedly are. So, although it sounds cruel, please let me be absolutely clear: By using this website, you agree that I am not liable for any consequences arising from your reliance on the statements on this website.
If you need legal advice, get a lawyer. I know some good ones, and I will gladly refer you.
I don’t like having to speak so sternly to you, and I’m not trying to be patronizing. But you deserve to be fully informed. That’s why I have written up this human-readable (I hope) post explaining the issues inherent in being a legal professional who publicly talks about legal issues in a non-professional capacity. Throwing up a disclaimer written in impenetrable legal jargon helps nobody but those with impenetrable legal minds. It’s not enough for you to understand that I disclaim all liability in the event that you foolishly choose to treat my musings like legal advice. It’s imperative that you also understand why you should never make that choice.
I sincerely hope that I never have to rely on this disclaimer, but only you can make that wish a reality. I think we have a good thing going here. Let’s keep it that way.