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Evaluating Legal Websites
How can you tell a reputable legal information site from one published by the con artist? To help you decide if a website is reliable, look for these 10 signs of an excellence in a legal website:
- Clear and Complete Identity Information
- Who sponsors the site? You should be able to quickly find full and accurate information on the identity of the site sponsors and contributors as well as details on how to contact them. Physical address and phone numbers can be reassuring to check. (However, some non-profits may not publish a physical address because they cannot handle all the potential visitors.) Peoples Law Library - Information about the sponsors of this website is at the bottom of each page.
- Visible Material Revision Dates
- When was the material last reviewed for legal accuracy? The website should conspicuously post the last date each page of the legal content was revised. This should be different from the date that editing or technical changes were made to the page. One update for the entire site is not particularly useful. Peoples Law Library - On this website, information about the last date the material was reviewed on pages with legal content can be found on the bottom of each page. The date on the upper right corner indicates the last date the page was changed for any reason.
- Information About Legal Jurisdiction
- Does the information relate to your legal situation? Most laws about common problems (such as divorce, custody, small claims) vary from state to state. If a website displays general legal information, the site should clearly state that the legal content may not apply in your location. It should indicate which jurisdiction (federal, state or county) the laws discussed does apply in. Peoples Law Library - Except where noted that federal law applies, all of the legal content on this website is based on Maryland law. Where there are local county or city variations, these are indicated.
- Legal Advice Disclaimer
- The site should provide a conspicuous notice that the legal information on the website is not legal advice, unless it is a law firm web site. A law firm site should clearly state the terms and conditions under which legal advice is provided. Peoples Law Library - See the statement at the bottom of each page.
- Descriptive Links to Other Websites
- Each link to other websites should include a description of where the link goes, what kind of content is on the website and its relevance to your problem. Peoples Law Library - The policy of the Peoples Law Library is to visit each site that we link to and to indicate the purpose of the link, whether the site is commercial and any cautions in its use.
- The Source of the Law is Noted where appropriate and available.
- The website should have links to relevant case law and legislation and should include information about the source of the law (the “citation”).
Peoples Law Library - Numerous legal citations appear throughout the site.
- Attorney and Legal Help Referrals Listed
- Where appropriate, the website should include information on how and where to obtain legal advice or further information. Peoples Law Library - >You can find attorney referrals under the “blue button” on the home page as well as scattered through out the Peoples Law Library site.
- Permissions to Publish Other Material is Displayed
- If the website uses material from books, magazines, or other websites (that is, any material created by someone else), does it show that it obtained permission to publish the content? Peoples Law Library follows a strict policy of obtaining permission for each document that is posted, including this one, which is posted with the permission of the ABA Elawyering task force.
- Commercial Activities
- A for-profit website should tell you how it is supported. If the site charges a fee for any of its services or to access its information the terms and conditions of use should be clearly stated. A “Terms and Conditions” or “Terms of Service” document (which defines under what terms you are authorized to use the website or to purchase products or services from the website) should be conspicuously displayed and clearly inform you about terms of services, refund policies, and methods of dispute resolution. Peoples Law Library is a non-profit website supported by grant funds to serve the public interest. No services or products are offered for sale by the Peoples Law Library and use of this site is unrestricted.
- If You Enter Information About Yourself, There Should Be a Privacy Statement
Source:Based upon the practices of the Maryland Legal Assistance Network (MLAN) and Draft Guidelines issued for comment in June of 2001 by the E-lawyering Task Force of the ABA Law Practice Management Section and ABA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services.
Is this legal advice?
This site offers legal information, not legal advice. We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information and to clearly explain your options. However we do not provide legal advice - the application of the law to your individual circumstances. For legal advice, you should consult an attorney. The Maryland State Law Library, a court-related agency of the Maryland Judiciary, sponsors this site. In the absence of file-specific attribution or copyright, the Maryland State Law Library may hold the copyright to parts of this website. You are free to copy the information for your own use or for other non-commercial purposes with the following language “Source: Maryland's People’s Law Library – www.peoples-law.org. © Maryland State Law Library, 2010.”