Why I No Longer Respond to Unsolicited Inquiries About Legal Matters

Several times a week, I get emails (and occasionally phone calls) from people inquiring about legal topics and asking me a question. If you’re reading this post, chances are you’ve made such an inquiry to me. Often, due to my expertise and research, I could easily help out the inquirer with links to a helpful URL or two, or a referral to an attorney who can help, or maybe even some general information about the law.

Back in the good old days, I used to freely reply to such inquiries. I felt like I could–and should–share my expertise in a way that cost me little and potentially provided a lot of help. It was about treating people as I would want to be treated.

The good old days are unfortunately over. Despite helping hundreds of people over the years with minor legal inquiries, I’ve changed my policy. Now, I won’t be able to respond to your inquiry or any follow-up inquiries.

Why the change? As the expression goes, it only takes one bad apple to spoil the barrel. I’ve had two recent situations where people who contacted me–essentially asking for a favor–have turned around and overclaimed that we formed an attorney-client relationship. In one situation, I simply made some referrals to attorneys who might help; in another, I was sent publicly available documents that the sender later (and, IMO, falsely) claimed were part of asking for my legal help with the case. In both, the overclaim of an attorney-client relationship interfered with my activities as a researcher and a blogger, i.e., my ability to do my job. As a bonus, usually the attorney-client overclaim is coupled with threats to notify the state bar or my dean or other folks, or otherwise to ruin my life.

As a result of the rare rotten apples, I have to assume all such inquirers are potential plaintiffs who will thank me by threatening to take my house and destroy my life–even though 99%+ are just well-meaning folks making fair requests of someone who probably could easily help. I’m so sorry to presume the worst when so few inquiries deserve it; it is unfair, and I wish I lived in a different world where trying to be a mensch wasn’t punished.

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