South Carolina Bar Gives Opinion About “JustAnswer.com”

South Carolina Bar Gives Opinion About “JustAnswer.com”

A recent South Carolina Bar Opinion has addressed the ethical issues arising out of the website “justanswer.com.”

The website www.justanswer.com allows members of the public to post questions concerning a number of different topics for a fee. The website allows different professionals, which it calls “experts”, to answer questions in his or her respective field. One of those “experts” gives advice in the field of law. A recent South Carolina Bar opinion found several ethical issues pertaining to the website, including: 1) advertising or communicating through
third-party legal information providers, 2) offering legal advice through such providers, and 3) receiving compensation from someone other than a client.

The Question:

May a South Carolina lawyer answer questions on this site or similar sites for compensation without violating any Rules of Professional Conduct?

The South Carolina Bar Opinion’s Answer:

The website’s use of testimonials, endorsements, the word “expert,” and other misleading statements prohibit Lawyer’s participation. The site invites specific questions about specific legal matters and offers specific legal advice but uses buried small-type statements to attempt to disclaim the creation of attorney- client relationships and to warn against reliance on the advice. The Committee believes Lawyer’s participation under these circumstances would be improper.

As to legal information websites in general, if a website complies with all communications and advertising rules, Lawyer could participate in
such a program but with specific caution against inadvertently forming an attorney-client relationship by offering more than basic information of general applicability. Where legal advice is provided, it is improper for Lawyer to accept compensation from the website provider without complying with Rule 1.8(f).