You can find all kinds of great legal advice online, but given the vast breadth of United States’ law alone, the advice you read may not be appropriate for your situation. That does not even take into consideration the sites that provide inaccurate or outdated information. Before you act on information that you read online, you need to evaluate it to make sure it is accurate.
Check for Credentials
Look to see who wrote the article. While individuals who are not lawyers may have specialized information, remember that they are not held to the same standards as lawyers. By law, lawyers must be as accurate as they can be in all areas of their legal practices, even in writing articles and blog posts online. Look for individuals who have passed and who are affiliated with a particular bar. Also, look for information from individuals who have specializations and certifications in that area. If the individual is not an attorney, look to see what basis this individual can speak from. A real estate agent, for instance, can provide tremendous insight into the legal workings of property laws, even if he cannot give actual personalized legal advice.
Look for Your Particular State
The information presented on the site may be completely accurate, but bear in mind that general information sites for the law do not always contain specifics for your individual state. The general standards for creating a 501c3 can be found on a number of sites that provide general legal information, but you are not responsible for the general status of the law. You must follow the laws of the state in which you plan to incorporate. You can use general knowledge sites to gain a better understanding of the law, but you must go farther and find sites that actually include precise information for your state.
Check the Law Itself
Most states now have their codes and legislative resolutions posted online. Some states, such as Indiana, update their codes and resolutions at the end of every season; while other states, such as New York, try to update theirs on a monthly basis. Many of these state sites also include search engines so that you can find the precise legislation or code you want simply by using the appropriate keywords. Remember that you may need to be creative with your keyword search terms. Not all of the state legislative sites include intuitive keyword or related keyword searches. This means that if the actual term in the code is “automotive,” you will have to look up “automotive” rather than “car.”
If the article that you’re reading online provides citations to the law, go ahead and read the actual law. Don’t just assume that it’s correct. In checking the law yourself, you can also make sure that it has not been overridden. Most online state law sites include information on the date that a law was either passed or overturned. Look for the most recent year’s annotations to get up to date information on a particular code that affects your situation.