It Has To Be Said: Internet Lawyers

by Jessica Holyoke on 15/03/10 at 12:26 am

In the United States, there are a few states left where you don’t have to go to law school in order to be an attorney.  In California, with some restrictions, you can be a lawyer over the internet.   Some states allow someone to "read the law" or simply work with a licensed attorney in order to study to be a lawyer. Abraham Lincoln is still revered by attorneys, and stupid Camden children, as studying the law by reading it and not by going to law school, even though there weren’t the overpopulation of law schools in 1800′s America as there are now.  (Coming Soon: the University of Starbucks Law School.)

So when a person says that you can educate yourself regarding the law by reading it, you have a tendancy to agree.  Its simply words, either on the screen or on a page.  Anyone who can speak the language can understand that, right?  Apparently, absolutely not.  And this is ignoring the fact that someone who looked up something on the internet is of course just as competent at reading and interpreting law as someone who went to school for three years, had to pass a bar examination and maintain their education with classes every year.

Here is an example; something pointed out by my friend the other day. Some guy has this idea that if you get a traffic ticket, say in Tuscon, Az., that you should go into court and ask questions.  Ask if you have are presumed innocent.  Ask if you are presumed innocent of every element of the offense.  Ask if you are presumed innocent of being at the place the incident happened.  Which, according to this person, means that if the defendant is presumed innocent of being at the location where the incident took place, therefore the court has no jurisdiction to take the case, and therefore, the case must be dropped. 

That’s a clear cut case of internet lawyering.  Someone reads something, things they have a handle on things, when they absolutely don’t and try to argue some backassward thing based off of the misunderstanding.  Because the court has jurisdiction over the case because that court would be the place to hear traffic violations alleged by the police in the location where it is alleged to have occured.  In order to prove that the defendant is guilty, the attorney or officer has to prove to the court that he met all the elements of the offense, including being there.  If this internet lawyer was arguing venue, then venue is proper because that was the place the incident was alleged to have occurred.  And that my friends is stupid internet lawyering in real life. 

I see it everywhere, especially with intellectual property, the backbone of what we do on Second Life.  People probably still believe that only a percentage of use determines fair use.  (Two paragraphs, ok, three paragraphs, DAMAGES).   Fair use depends on different factors, weighed by a court in order to determine its effectiveness as a defense in an infringement suit.  Does that mean that use isn’t fair until a court decides it is?  Hell, no.  Otherwise you couldn’t review movies, tv shows or music and Seth Green wouldn’t be as succesful as he is.  

Or the whole "its fictional currency, it isn’t real, so I can steal it nyah nyah" when countries are going, "I’m pretty sure I can tax that in one way (receipt of any income) or another (barter credit)."   What do I mean by receipt of income?  Some tax professionals say Matt Murphy catching and keeping Barry Bond’s 756th home run ball means he just received $500,000 worth of income, on which he would owe income tax. 

When it comes to Lindens, I always say its not income until I cash out from the Lindex, because I don’t have an absolute right to them.  The Lab could lose them at anytime.  However, the barter credit and the any receipt of income are arguments against my position.

Which is another thing the bothers me about internet lawyers.  I have seen in a number of threads where they pull the "oh you can’t determine that, only a court can determine that, except for when I make the determination, then I’m right and you’re wrong."   Actually, no.  You don’t need a court to determine every little detail of life. 

So fellow…grocery baggers, while fighting internet lawyers on forums might seem like wrestling with pigs, sometimes you happen to come up against them in court. 

12 Responses to “It Has To Be Said: Internet Lawyers”

  1. Bubblesort Triskaidekaphobia

    Mar 15th, 2010

    LOL, I was just telling Stroker this in comments on a different article when this article posted. The way I look at it, you can be an internet lawyer or you can be a plaintiff or defendant in court, but if you are both you are probably going to fail at both. I mean, I’m no lawyer, so I don’t pay much notice to random basement dwellers on the internet telling me about the law. If I feel a need to know the law I’ll get a real lawyer.

  2. Tux Winkler

    Mar 15th, 2010

    On tickets in RL I was sent a speeding ticket. Being told if you contest they let you off, I contested. They then sent a photo. Sure enough it was me, speeding and on the phone.

    Fine doubled then addition fine for wasting police time, and finally 6 points on my license. So in future, if I am unsure, I will pay the first – XD

  3. Jumpman Lane

    Mar 15th, 2010

    @bubble should i follow strokry’s advice

  4. Jumpman Lane

    Mar 15th, 2010

    @bubble should i follow strokry’s advice

  5. Alyx Stoklitsky

    Mar 15th, 2010

    Court rooms are just like games of pokemon, where each pokemon master chooses a team of pokemon to and makes them battle the other master’s team.

    It’s not about justice, but rather about who picked the best team and who had the most rare candy.

  6. Bubblesort Triskaidekaphobia

    Mar 15th, 2010

    @Alyx: That would be a hilarious machinima. I’m picturing the Scopes trial pokemon style with anime effects, LOL

    @Jumpman: This sounds like real trouble. You’re going to need plenty of legal advice before this thing is over. As your attorney, I advise you to rent a very fast car with no top, and you’ll need the cocaine, a tape recorder for special music, Acapulco shirts. Get the hell out of L.A. for at least 48 hours. This blows my weekend because naturally I’m going to have to go with you. And we’re going to have to arm ourselves… to the teeth!

  7. GreenLantern Excelsior

    Mar 16th, 2010

    Fair use is fair until someone takes you to court and the judge decides it’s not fair. Until then it’s a matter of your opinion against the other guy’s opinion.

    We have speed enforcement cameras on some of the freeways in my state. If the camera catches you speeding, you receive a letter showing all the details including your picture, and advising you to pay a fine. Some smart folks researched the matter and discovered that you can’t be legally “served” with a speeding ticket unless it’s in person, so they advised people to ignore the letters. There’s a video interview with a lawyer available where the lawyer advises the same thing. So the only people who pay those fines are those who are too lazy or uninformed to know that they don’t have to. Since the fines don’t result in any points on your license anyway, they’re obviously just making revenue for the state and the camera company. The conclusion I get from that is that it is good practice for you to do some research and know what the law says. It can save you money.

    And BTW, that city in the southern part of my state is Tucson, not “Tuscon.”

  8. viruspoem

    Mar 16th, 2010

    I’d like everyone to remember to keep the term ‘internet lawyer’ in context.

    The internet, I’ve found, tends to give prominence to the ignorant, desperate, my-life-is-a-roleplaying-game types over the reasonable and informed. This displays it’s net effect in the opening statements of this article, which imply that anyone having come to the bar by way of reading the law is a JLU-style poseur, googling a topic and claiming the matter settled on page one.

    The fact is, there are a lot of people in this country who are perfectly capable of learning a profession and excelling in it by reading a book, and there are a lot of people who’ve spent a quarter of a million on a formal education and have near-perfect LSAT scores but can barely read and write. There’s a lot of grey between these extremes as well. None of the negatives, however, should be taken as invalidating the practice of reading the law, or autodidacticism in general.

    I don’t mean to cast aspersions on the article at all, the rest of which was excellent. I’m just tired of people reacting to the the roleplayers of every field in such a way as to give credence to the cancerous idea that knowledge is a commodity, and if one hasn’t purchased it and had the proof of their purchase vetted by others then it must be somehow invalid.

  9. Sang Froid

    Mar 19th, 2010

    From the California Legal Code

    Admission to Practice Law in Calfornia
    Educational Standards

    A person who intends to comply with the legal education requirements of these rules by study in a law office or judge’s chambers must
    submit the required form with the fee set forth in the Schedule of Charges and Deadlines within thirty days of beginning study;
    submit semi-annual reports, as required by section (B)(5) below on the Committee’s form with the fee set forth in the Schedule of Charges and Deadlines within thirty days of completion of each six-month period; and
    have studied law in a law office or judge’s chambers during regular business hours for at least eighteen hours each week for a minimum of forty-eight weeks to receive credit for one year of study or for at least eighteen hours a week for a minimum of twenty-four weeks to receive credit for one-half year of study.
    The attorney or judge with whom the applicant is studying must
    be admitted to the active practice of law in California and be in good standing for a minimum of five years;
    provide the Committee within thirty days of the applicant’s beginning study an outline of a proposed course of instruction that he or she will personally supervise;
    personally supervise the applicant at least five hours a week;
    examine the applicant at least once a month on study completed the previous month;
    report to the Committee every six months on the Committee’s form the number of hours the applicant studied each week during business hours in the law office or chambers; the number of hours devoted to supervision; specific information on the books and other materials studied, such as chapter names, page numbers, and the like the name of any other applicant supervised and any other information the Committee may require; and
    not personally supervise more than two applicants simultaneously.
    Rule 4.29 adopted effective September 1, 2008; amended effective November 14, 2009.

  10. Jessica Holyoke

    Mar 23rd, 2010

    Hooray for the new computer.


    I didn’t mean to say that you had to buy your way into a profession. There are plenty of attorneys who went to law school, passed the bar and just plain suck. My point was more directed to the people who read one rule and misapply it or apply it poorly. And even the people who just learned the profession from reading still trained by reading, not just apply one aspect out of context.

    The traffic camera issue might be Arizona specific or someone might have noticed the loop hole and closed it. But it does seem that someone thought that they should copy another state’s work without looking into all the details. Perhaps the state that Arizona copied allowed for service by mail of traffic citations.

    The comment about “its fair use until a court decides” leads to a very robust discussion about truth, facts and due process. In short form, just because you are not able to prove something is true in court, does not mean it isn’t true. Or because you are able to prove something is true in court doesn’t make it true. The determination is accepted by the courts, even though its not true. That’s why there are truthfully innocent, but legally guilty, people in jail and legally innocent, but truthfully guilty, people on the streets.

  11. K.T.D.

    Mar 28th, 2010

    @Jessica Holyoke:

    GLE is actually 100% correct about the traffic camera tickets being null and void in AZ, but they rely on a loophole to enforce them:

    If you respond to the letter using the form, OR view the pictures/video of the infraction online you are agreeing to waive your right to be served the citation, either via the supplied form or by agreeing to the web site’s TOS. If you do not respond to the ticket in any way it falls upon them to send you a process server. They usually don’t bother.

    That said if you decide to put yourself on the government’s radar by getting snapped repeatedly and ignoring the tickets, They will investigate and the court will send someone to serve you in person.

  12. Mimika Oh

    Mar 30th, 2010

    As a fictional person, I like to spend my fictional profits on real travel.

Leave a Reply