There is No Substitute for Knowledge

Legal ResearchOne of the most enlightening things I have done as a writer, and I wish I had been able to do it it back when I was an active trial lawyer, is to go to the various websites and forums and examine what and how people think about legal issues. There are a few Question and Answer sites where people ask lawyers questions and receive answers, sometimes for pay and sometimes for free (and you really do get what you pay for). In addition, there are a number of websites where people who are representing themselves go to talk about their cases and interact with other pro se litigants.

I am amazed first at the amount of incorrect information out there and which people act on without bothering to verify for themselves at the correct sources.They will take a statement espoused as truth by some guy sitting in his mother's basement in a bathrobe and look at the article where that guy got his information but never bother to see if there is any supporting rationale for the article in the first place. This is particularly true if the news sounds so good that they will win their case by using this simple trick which no lawyer has ever thought of using. A good example that made its way around the internet for a while was the one about a court not having jurisdiction to hear your case if the flag in the courtroom had a yellow fringe around it. Somehow, someone obtained information that the yellow fringe indicated it was an admiralty court and therefore only had jurisdiction on maritime issues. I have no idea if the yellow fringe has anything to do with admiralty cases or not but what I do know is that the type of flag being used has absolutely nothing to do with conferring jurisdiction on a court. You can argue this point until you're blue in the face, threaten to appeal, and actually appeal but you will never win a case because the court has or does not have fringe on the flag.

At the same time, while people are willing to believe this nonsense I have seen them ridicule legal experts on websites like this one, based solely on the fact the person is getting information they don't like. Mind you, it is not incorrect information, it is just information that doesn't say what they want it to say.

If you are considering representing yourself in a lawsuit or other legal matter or even if you have a lawyer and are just wanting to make sure you are being represented correctly, do your research in the case law and in the statutes and not on the internet forums. With the investment of a minimal amount of money and time you can learn to do legal research yourself and find out the answers and the basis for the law. Our book, The Guerrilla Guide to Legal Research: Finding the Law for Non-Lawyers costs only $12.97 and not only teaches you how to do legal research but provides you with a link to a little known section of Google that has all of the case law available (no, you don't do case law research at Google.com). It also explains how to use the internet to find the codes, rules and statutes as well as how to interpret those laws and apply them to your facts and case.

In this day and age there is no excuse for not being well informed on a matter which is important to you and being well informed means not only having an answer but having the correct answer.

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