There is the often cited claim on the internet that giving legal advice will make you liable for damages.

Didn't previously quote an actual claim, but one of the answers is such a perfect example that I will be quoting that one:

Only a court can make you liable for damages. There is nothing to stop anyone from suing anybody for anything. But if you give incorrect advice, then it may become more likely that a court may find you liable. Of course a professional can provide incorrect advice too.

This advice should not be taken as legally representative, and you should seek legal advice in order to receive a professional opinion.

- iantresman (CC license)

Now, the only legal case I was able to find was this one under US jurisdiction where it was ruled that giving generic advice was not unauthorized practice of law. So, to prevent this question from asking legal advice: have there been any cases anywhere in the world where somebody was made to pay for damages because he provided (generic) legal advice.

To be very clear here, I am talking about non-lawyers giving legal advice (being a lawyer comes with a whole lot more responsibilities in some countries).

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    @AE Well, if there has been a legal ruling somebody should know about it I guess~ if no answer turns up that's already pretty telling. Or if somebody knows of an authoritative figure that claims it's fine to make such statements then that could be pretty telling as well. Nov 30, 2014 at 22:31
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    @ChrisW Well, to be honest I am pretty sure at least in the countries I spend most time in that you would loose such a case. It's your own responsibility and no matter what stupid stuff your friends told you, suing them wouldn't get you anywhere. Legal negligence wouldn't at least here come into the picture I am pretty sure. But either way, if you know about cases where somebody has been sued on those grounds (giving advice and sued for negligence) then please do share. Nov 30, 2014 at 22:49
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    @ChrisW, if you're not legally qualified and don't falsely represent yourself as being so, then I don't see that you've done anything wrong in law, here in the UK at least. You were just incorrect (or lying) - that happens all the time. Perhaps someone will prove me wrong.
    – A E
    Nov 30, 2014 at 22:49
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    @Oddthinking: The specific reason I made it generic was because if there is even a single jurisdiction where such a case has been then a valid argument could be constructed to always be super careful as the internet tends to cross borders. And will see whether I can catch a nice quote, the only ones I am able to find now are "IANAL" or "Offtopic, because legal question". Nov 30, 2014 at 23:06
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    @Oddthinking So, do you seriously wish me to open 196 questions here? Because the claims tend to say something like "depending on the specific jurisdiction, we might abstain from answering your question, because it might be construed as giving legal advice and thus making us liable for damages" (that one was prefaced with "even if we were lawyers" though). Examining this claim for a specific jurisdiction is pointless, because lets say it's illegal and enforced in Lichtenstein and you mess up then that means you won't be able to ever Nov 30, 2014 at 23:25

1 Answer 1


Legal advice is by definition not generic. Legal advice is applying the law to a particular set of real facts and giving a conclusion upon which you can reasonably expect the other party to rely. I will assume this is what you are asking about.

The Law Society of Upper Canada maintains a list of prosecutions of people performing the unauthorized practice of law. See this case in particular: He was enjoined to cease the practice of law including providing advice or performing legal research "verbally, in writing, over the internet, or by video".

A good review of the unauthorized practice of law via the internet can be found here.

  • Have to read up on it a bit more, but at least the second link seems to be somebody who was asking money for this. Don't have time now to read the last link yet. Dec 1, 2014 at 16:11
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    Sure, but you didn't specify pro bono. Is there are reason why you believe payment would make a difference? I know this is mixing jurisdictions, but see here for example: "Additionally, whether an individual is paid for his or her services is irrelevant." - legaladvice.uslegal.com
    – spoderman
    Dec 1, 2014 at 16:40
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    In case you're interested, this is what USC has to say about pro bono unauthorized practice of law:law.sc.edu/pro_bono/ethics.shtml
    – spoderman
    Dec 1, 2014 at 16:45
  • This is an answer about criminal sanctions for "unauthorized practice of law". The question seems to be about financial liability for the giving of advice which is quite a different thing. UPL seems rather North American (to me) and is certainly not a universal thing. Dec 13, 2014 at 8:44
  • @Francis penalties for the cases in my link include financial penalties. He didn't restrict the question to civil liability. He has confused many legal terms of art in the question, so I'm trying not to interpret any word he used very strictly. Your point about criminal UPL vs civil liability is correct, though.
    – spoderman
    Dec 13, 2014 at 19:55

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