4/30/2014 11:47:00 AM Law Day: Take Caution When Seeking Advice
SPRINGFIELD — A growing number of consumers seek legal advice through the Internet. Legal advice, whether it is provided on-line or in other ways, may not be based on Illinois law (or the locale where the legal matter arises). With the exception of matters governed exclusively by federal law, like bankruptcy and federal tax issues, the laws in one state frequently differ from that in other states. Just because information is posted on a website doesn't mean that it is based on Illinois law or applies to your circumstances (or case) or that the people who posted it are practicing lawyers. The best approach is to verify the information with an experienced attorney.
Another non-traditional means of obtaining legal advice is through storefront-type businesses that draft legal documents. Unfortunately, some of these organizations use non-lawyers, who, for a fee, draft legal documents or even give legal advice. Consumers should be aware that, in Illinois, only lawyers who are licensed to practice law in this state can draft legal documents. Non-lawyers who do so may be guilty of the unauthorized practice of law. If you believe you have been victimized by this practice, you can contact the State's Attorney in your area or the Illinois State Bar Association.
Another non-traditional but increasingly accepted means of receiving legal services is through prepaid legal service plans. This kind of plan calls for you to pay a nominal monthly fee in exchange for legal assistance, usually available by telephone. The plan may also cover brief office consultations, review of basic legal documents, preparation of a simple will, and the preparation of short letters or phone calls made by a lawyer to an adverse party. Some plans may offer more extended coverage for an additional fee.
Before joining a prepaid legal service plan, be sure to read the fine print and understand all the options and costs involved and what services will be provided.