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May 22, 2007 8:38 PM   Subscribe

As nice as it is to know what people are NOT, what is the precedent for people in AskMe to so doggedly remind people that they are not a doctor, not a lawyer, and most importantly, not YOUR doctor or lawyer?
posted by hermitosis to Etiquette/Policy at 8:38 PM (99 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Is there really some important legal reason or policy that deems it important to protect oneself by pointing out that one is not a licensed professional? And can you point out where this was discussed? If so that's great and I'll take that into consideration, but otherwise it just seems repetitive and silly.

And if it turns out that we already discussed this in the not-too-distant past and I was just gone that day, or if I even commented in the thread and was like, "What a good idea! Let's all do this!" then at least give me a running start.
posted by hermitosis at 8:39 PM on May 22, 2007


In a thread I just assume that if someone is a doctor, a lawyer, or a authority of some kind that they will pipe up and say so, and that otherwise everyone who responds is just a helpful suggestion-gnome who may actually have laser-sharp insights or could just be gambling with their front-teeth.
posted by hermitosis at 8:41 PM on May 22, 2007


In most states, unauthorized practice of law is a criminal offense.
posted by Partial Law at 8:42 PM on May 22, 2007


Certainly a little disclaimer in the posting page is worth saving everyone the trouble of telling the poster what they already know anyway.
posted by hermitosis at 8:46 PM on May 22, 2007


As much as anything else, it's Internet habit. You'll see IANAL declarations (along with IAALBIANYLYY declarations) everywhere on the internet that advice is solicited and offered. If it was on the posting page, people would still do it.

And frankly, it's a good habit for people to include their qualifications--or lack thereof--when answering questions.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:51 PM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


For licensed professionals, it's a very cautious disclaimer. Lawyers/doctors don't want to be on the hook for malpractice claims based on advice they give online. Is it likely? No. Has it ever even happened? I don't know. But there's no harm in giving the warning, except for the minor repetitive annoyance it may cause.
posted by brain_drain at 8:55 PM on May 22, 2007


Little disclaimers are great, but I can tell you that they're not likely to stop this behavior. Laws regarding jurisdiction on the internet are such that if I do something that constitutes the unauthorized practice of law or medicine in your state, even if I post it from here, your state law may very well control. (See, e.g.) State laws on this issue vary, so I'm going to be very very careful in making sure that nothing I do could be construed as practicing law on the internet, because when I apply to sit for the bar exam in two years, I don't think the Character & Fitness board would look very kindly on a conviction for practicing without a license.
posted by Partial Law at 8:58 PM on May 22, 2007


IANAS (I Am Not A Snarker)

But...

The hell?!?!
posted by The Deej at 9:03 PM on May 22, 2007


So just make a note of it in your profile. "I am not a lawyer." Or, "I am a doctor, but I'm not YOUR doctor." Etc. Problem solved, for the most part, right? That way people who are twitchy about this sort of thing can prove that they have provided this information to everyone on the site, and then people can relax a little while commenting.

It's not a grievous annoyance, but it does seem a little stupid after a while, and isn't explained anywhere.
posted by hermitosis at 9:05 PM on May 22, 2007


It is an Internet convention and not specific to AskMe. I think it also is a subtle way to remind people that they should seek the advice of a real and known professional instead of making decisions based on people who are likely more eager to have an opinion than have practical advice.

If someone is a professional, they point out that they are commenting from afar and that all advice should be taken with a grain of salt.

There is a weird dynamic that when people read stuff on the Internets from people who speak with authority, they believe it. Pointing out that you have no authority is a good for not just the casual reader, but the person asking the question as well.
posted by qwip at 9:06 PM on May 22, 2007


From Partial Law's link: The doctor, Hageseth, issued an online prescription to a patient in California, and was then charged criminally with practicing medicine without a license in California.

See, I don't really see how this sort of thing really applies to ANYTHING that goes on here.
posted by hermitosis at 9:06 PM on May 22, 2007


Hermitosis, a disclaimer on the user's ID page might not provide the same legal cover as a disclaimer within the context of the discussion.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:08 PM on May 22, 2007


Someone didn't search AskMe
posted by smackfu at 9:12 PM on May 22, 2007


Oh yes, someone did.
posted by hermitosis at 9:13 PM on May 22, 2007


Another reason I asked...
posted by hermitosis at 9:14 PM on May 22, 2007


It's self-conscious aggrandizing look-at-me bullshit.
posted by Rumple at 9:14 PM on May 22, 2007


The purpose of that link was not to draw a direct parallel, but just to point out that he was subject to California law. Which means if, say, Nebraska has really strict laws on what constitutes practicing law in Nebraska, and someone answers an AskMe question not knowing that the asker is in Nebraska, the answerer would be subject to whatever law exists in Nebraska. Also, as SCDB said, if the disclaimer is not next to the "advice" (and in fact could be added or removed retroactively from your profile page), it's not the same thing.

I'm not saying it's not somewhat annoying to read all the time, I'm just pointing out why people probably aren't going to stop doing it.
posted by Partial Law at 9:14 PM on May 22, 2007


Hey, you're the one who said "And can you point out where this was discussed?"
posted by smackfu at 9:15 PM on May 22, 2007


It's one of those things that would be very hard to stamp out, because each person saying it is saying devoid of some greater context where saying it would be understood to be unnecessary. And there's no great way to introduce that context short of relentlessly hounding users on a case-by-case basis—which may work fairly painlessly with rare things (Todd Lokken, @username salutations), but would just be a big mess for something very common.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:15 PM on May 22, 2007


It happens all over the internet. There's nothing you can do to stop it. Don't worry about it.
posted by puke & cry at 9:15 PM on May 22, 2007


not sure why this is such a big deal, a few letters on the front of an answer, makes people feel a little better, BFD. I highly doubt this is going to solve this little annoyance you have, so essentially it is a bitching thread.

it does seem a little stupid after a while

most things do.
posted by edgeways at 9:18 PM on May 22, 2007


essentially it is a bitching thread

Hey, who said anything about fat people? I didn't.
posted by hermitosis at 9:23 PM on May 22, 2007


The whole liability thing is a big stretch. The real reason people do this is (as already mentioned) to subtly remind the reader that the subject matter can be complicated and in some cases can require extensive training and background, so it's not always possible to expect a reasonable answer from an internet message board. And consequently, it also says "I'm not responsible if I'm talking out my ass" as well as "hey look at me I'm a smartypants and know a thing or two about foo that is a complicated subject." The latter two are the real reasons why people do this, and like everybody has said, there is NO chance that you're going to be able to stamp this out no matter what you do.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:32 PM on May 22, 2007


When I say stuff like this, it's not that I'm afraid I'm going to be convicted of practicing law without a license. It's shorthand for something like "I've read some stuff about the law, but law is one seriously intricate subject and I could be essentially right but wrong in your case because of some little detail that I wouldn't know about unless I had a law degree and maybe not even then."

I think "I am not a lawyer" and "I am not a doctor" come up more often than other things for three reasons.

Reason the First: People tend to throw legal and medical questions out to the masses more than they do other questions that require specialized knowledge, like say car repair questions.

Reason the Second: People often seem to feel somewhat qualified to answer medical and legal questions even though they just kind of picked it up someplace.

Reason the Third: If you give someone bad car repair advice, chances are it'll just not work. If you give someone bad programming advice, again it'll probably just not work. If you give someone bad legal advice or bad medical advice, there's a better chance they'll end up in seriously deep shit. (I am not a septic tank engineer.)
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 9:34 PM on May 22, 2007


eye anal
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:37 PM on May 22, 2007


I'm not taking up a crusade or anything. I just wanted to know if there was any real reason *I* should do it.

What I've learned is that it may be important to a few certain professionals in a sort of theoretical way, that everybody else does it anyway for pretty much no reason, and that it wouldn't be worth the effort to tell them to cut it out, and that it does seem to at least mildly irk some other people, so I know I'm in good company. Fair enough!

I now consider myself educated on the subject. For the record, I am a lawyer, I am your lawyer, and this thread is costing you $50 a minute.
posted by hermitosis at 9:39 PM on May 22, 2007


I should clarify that my comments regarding liability were more targeted towards actual doctors and lawyers and their relation to the second part of the question ("most importantly, not YOUR doctor or lawyer").
posted by Partial Law at 9:41 PM on May 22, 2007


i, a nad
posted by brain_drain at 9:42 PM on May 22, 2007


Reason the Second: People often seem to feel somewhat qualified to answer medical and legal questions even though they just kind of picked it up someplace.

I can respect this entirely, though suffice to say that the number one answers that are given in almost all medical/legal threads are "GO TO A DOCTOR!" or "YOU NEED A LAWYER!" And if the advice given is heinous enough, usually a real pro will pop in and point that out. So to the extent that they are useful at all, these threads seem to be a pretty self-policing.
posted by hermitosis at 9:46 PM on May 22, 2007


There is absolutely no reason you should feel compelled to write IANAL, if that's what you're saying.

I don't mind "IANAL" or "IANAD" at all, but what really does bug me is when people extend it ad nauseam to mundane shit. For example saying IANADFFE for "I am not a drosophilus fruit fly expect, but ..." Just shut the hell up and say what you were going to say.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:47 PM on May 22, 2007


hermitosis: Is there really some important legal reason or policy that deems it important to protect oneself by pointing out that one is not a licensed professional?

No.


jacquilynne: And frankly, it's a good habit for people to include their qualifications--or lack thereof--when answering questions.

I hate to disagree with you jacquilynne, cause your answers are normally pretty awesome, but..

Well, to begin with there is the classic MeTa on the questions: Where should I, a physician, draw the line at commenting on health-related posts in AskMe? In which the following article is discussed: Cyberadvice: The ethical implications of giving professional advice over the Internet.

From that article:
These problems can lead to a person foregoing a legal claim, [...] or even more simply, feeling as though the advice they received was adequate and ending their pursuit for information.
I have come across several questions where the statement of qualifications would clearly lead the asker to forgo further pursuit of information. To me, that is a critical step in the process of going from 'just somebody on the internet', to a professional giving advice. And again:
Ultimately, what all this discussion of disclaimers has led to is an affirmation of the basic principle that courts are unlikely to find liability in the giving of general information but will continue to find a professional-client relationship, and hold parties liable, when specific advice is given.
To me, both ethically and in keeping with the spirit of AskMe, "general information" is the key. Answers should point out and help interpret information, not spoon feed askers too lazy to tackle their own problems.
posted by Chuckles at 9:52 PM on May 22, 2007


I am both a doctor and a lawyer. I am also an inveterate liar. At least one of the preceding statements is false.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:54 PM on May 22, 2007


It's self-conscious aggrandizing look-at-me bullshit.

I totally disagree, particularly in the case where a board is likely to have persons who are professionals in certain fields around.

For instance, I frequent a board about a particular model of car, and "I am not a mechanic, but" is a fairly common starter, to differentiate anecdotal advice from that of a professional with a track record. It's just a few words, and it immediately and clearly sets up the amount of salt you should take a comment with.
posted by davejay at 9:54 PM on May 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


I hate to disagree with you jacquilynne, cause your answers are normally pretty awesome, but..

Fair enough--I wasn't so much trying to address it from that detailed a level. I mostly think people who are pulling shit out of their asses--something I've been known to do on occasion in Ask.Me--should admit it, and people who have some reason to believe what they're saying is actually correct should say that, too. I like to imagine that nobody takes an Ask.Me answer as gospel and fails to follow up with a live doctor/lawyer, as appropriate, but that is obviously naive.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:01 PM on May 22, 2007


It would be better if people simply left all matters of qualifications out of AskMe. Let's take the green for what it is: advice from bored geeks on the net. People who flaunt their qualifications or lack thereof are essentially misleading the OP.
posted by nixerman at 10:14 PM on May 22, 2007


From my experience on AskMe, the following was the ultimate case of dancing the fine line between giving advice and giving information: Is it really so bad to plug an air conditioner into a 2-prong outlet with an adapter? The asker directly addresses me..
Chuckles, I quite appreciate the information in your answer, but I'm too dumb to be able to apply it to my situation.
It really bothered me, because I am here out of a desire compulsion to answer. On the other hand, that asker was clearly intending to stop their search for a solution without fully understanding the issues..
posted by Chuckles at 10:19 PM on May 22, 2007


You know, if anyone should say it, it's probably not the people who ARE saying it.

"I'm not a doctor, but I think blood in your urine is probably a bad sign." versus "If you're eating corn you're basically poisoning yourself, there are lots of studies that confirm this and also I know a lady who ate corn and got cancer."
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 10:24 PM on May 22, 2007


if you don't understand the many reasons why one might want to preface a comment with "IANAL," then you're probably the person it's intended for.

no one is twisting your arm. you're not forced to use these conventions, any more than capitalizing your sentences.

this is not a metafilter convention. it happens all over the internet. if you can't decipher it with google, there's probably no hope for you anyway. i'm skeptical that it really interferes with your understanding -- for example, you don't seem to be confused by any of the terminology on this thread: OP, "the green," BFD, etc. it appears to me that you're merely bored and inclined to complain about something.

there need be no "precedent" for lawyers, doctors, or other professionals to take precautions that might seem excessive to you. we're much more concerned about character and fitness boards than your dislike of acronyms. i'm guessing that even if your doctor has never had a patient get sepsis and he keeps is office really clean, you'd still want him to sterilize his needles.

nor does there need to be a "precedent" to reinforce the notion at every possible turn that where a legal or medical question is concerned, the first answer is and always will be "go see a lawyer/doctor." that answer cannot be emphasized enough.

you're welcome.
posted by spiderwire at 10:28 PM on May 22, 2007


I don't go flashing "Hey I'm a librarian" all over AskMe because 1) it doesn't really matter and 2) I won't get in trouble if I say I am a librarian and then I fuck something up [maybe about Oklahoma history?]. However law students have it drilled into their head that they'd better be damned certain they are not implying they are giving someone legal advice when they're really just talking shit in the internet. Doctors, same deal.

I'm always psyched when I see our resident docs and esquires chiming in and I'd like to do whatever we can to keep them doing that. If it means a sprinkling of IANYL IANYD all over the place, I'm prepared to live with that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:31 PM on May 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


hmm. i want to ratchet down the snark level of my last comment, although i'm still skeptical about the purpose of this thread.

i think Rhomboid got it right. if you're looking for a reason why you should use "IANAL," etc., i think the best one is this: on any question that could require that preface, the first and most important thing the asker should be hearing is go talk to a goddamn professional.

you could respond, "well, if that's the most important answer, why not just say that and nothing else?" the response is essentially the same response i'd give to ikkuyu's thread -- (a) you can't control the behavior of the other posters, (b) the person is obviously here for advice anyway, you might as well give it to them and at the same time tell them to go see a professional, (c) it helps couch your qualifications, and most of all (d) it's not like it really costs anybody anything.

i mean, if there's people out there who have an aversion to "IANAL" -- well, so be it. it seems to me that maintaining the appropriate level of seriousness in medical- or legal-related threads is more important than the inconvenience of a few extra letters presaging a comment.

all that said, it probably doesn't matter what you do -- as Lore said, the people who say it are generally the people who don't need to make the disclaimer.
posted by spiderwire at 10:43 PM on May 22, 2007


However law students have it drilled into their head that they'd better be damned certain they are not implying they are giving someone legal advice when they're really just talking shit in the internet. Doctors, same deal.

jess, all due respect, but can you get disbarred for giving someone an incorrect book reference? :)

(i get what you're saying, but "drilled into their head" make it sound like we've been brainwashed -- which we very well might have been, but there's also very legitimate reasons to make these disclaimers, especially where it doesn't really cost anything.)
posted by spiderwire at 10:45 PM on May 22, 2007


"drilled into their head" make it sound like we've been brainwashed

Didn't mean to imply that it wasn't with good reason. I was just saying it's important, if you're a lawyer, to make damned sure no one assumes you're their lawyer.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:49 PM on May 22, 2007


IANAWETTVMOM
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:26 PM on May 22, 2007


I, like a few others here, AL. This is an interesting thread, because on the one hand, even an uptight lawyer like me has a similar reaction to hermitosis. If you're not a lawyer, there isn't even what I would consider to be a remote chance of you being prosecuted for the unauthorized practice of law. Lawyers are the people who are most often prosecuted for the unauthorized practice of law, and even then rarely. Of course this isn't legal advice. Of course I'm not a lawyer. Of course I'm not your lawyer. Nothing could be more obvious.

For me, the disclaimer (if that's what you want to call it) is most important on the rare occasion when someone like me gives a more than generic legal answer in the green. And not because I'm worried about covering my ass. What I'm concerned with, and jessamyn alluded to this above, is you taking my advice, written hastily over a coffee break while I'm working on matters for people who actually are my clients, as though I was your lawyer, hired by you to solve your legal problem. Even though you probably won't, if I write something coherent, and if I say, "well, I am a lawyer and I deal with licensing agreements all the time. Here's the thing about licensing agreements..." you might go ahead and think that somehow, because I said that, I have given you anything other than a jump-off for a discussion with your actual lawyer, or maybe raised a flag to send you (or not send you) to one.

"Legal advice," "As your attorney..." and its variants are magic words to me. They mean that I have access to all of your information; I have researched your issues in your jurisdiction; I've conferred with my colleagues and I've made a real decision. They mean that I've plied my trade on your behalf. I'm happy to share what I know in a less formal context...but when everyone else says I'm NOT a lawyer, then I come in and say that I AM one, my answer could reasonably carry some (probably unwarranted) weight.

So when I (and I don't really do this, but I absolutely understand why those who would, do) tell you a few quick facts about landlord-tenant law in your jurisdiction, or give you a few suggestions about what you should focus on in your legal dilemma, I don't want you to labor under the misapprehension that simply because I'm a lawyer, my telling you so means that I'm even in a position to give you real legal advice. For me, being a lawyer isn't about knowing how to answer a random hypothetical question posted on the glowing green. It's about helping you get your head around your problem, understanding the issues and spending real time helping you solve it. The difference between what I would do for a client and what I would do in AskMetaFilter is so huge that it almost demands qualification.

But yes, if you're not one (or a doctor, or a structural engineer, or a meat thermometer), it's probably not necessary to remind everyone that you are not, in fact, a licensed professional. And that is not my legal opinion. Eat the chicken. Even if it's a little red. Even if the mayo is warm.
posted by kosem at 12:02 AM on May 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


The thing that bugs me is when people state they are not a lawyer, and then also carefully continue on to state that they are not my lawyer.

Of course you're not. You've already established your lack of lawyerosity. In most cases, this proud and mock-formal announcement is just silly. Nobody cares if you're NOT a lawyer.

If your delight in adherence to sacred imaginary protocol compels you to join the National-Universal Treaty of the Secret Abbreviation Club, you could at least use the right abbreviation and the correct logic for your official declared lawyering status.

IANAL: You're not a lawyer. Therefore, you're not anyone's lawyer.
IAAL, IANYL: You're a lawyer, but not mine
posted by Sallyfur at 12:12 AM on May 23, 2007


IAAL. I also agree wholeheartedly with kosem:

"Legal advice," "As your attorney..." and its variants are magic words to me. They mean that I have access to all of your information; I have researched your issues in your jurisdiction; I've conferred with my colleagues and I've made a real decision. They mean that I've plied my trade on your behalf. I'm happy to share what I know in a less formal context...but when everyone else says I'm NOT a lawyer, then I come in and say that I AM one, my answer could reasonably carry some (probably unwarranted) weight.

Especially since people don't seem to understand that legal training doesn't mean knowing legal answers (usually) but knowing how to find them. My niece asked me last week about a family law issue in Manitoba. Well, I know f**k all about family law, and I neither went to law school nor took the bar in Manitoba. Assets are riding on this? Hire a lawyer. (you can sue if they screw up, you know. that's half the reason not to depend on your uncle, or half-brother, or second cousin who happens to be one)
posted by dreamsign at 12:38 AM on May 23, 2007


For the record, I would like to state that when I use the acronym IANAL, the N stands for "nearly", in the sense that I have my law degree, but never bothered to do my professional certificate. In my jurisdiction, this means that I am barred from giving legal advice for money.

In other words, IANAL (for free). All you need to do is ask.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:39 AM on May 23, 2007


Oh, and mrs. dreamsign is a law librarian. You want fun liability issues, try helping people who come in everyday willing to take whatever answer you can help them find in five minutes and run off to court with them.

Kinda like AskMe, actually...
posted by dreamsign at 12:40 AM on May 23, 2007


also seconding what kosem & dreamsign said. spot on.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:47 AM on May 23, 2007


wouldn't it be thirding?
posted by spiderwire at 1:16 AM on May 23, 2007


As your attorney, I advise you to tell me where you put the goddamn mescaline.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:33 AM on May 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'll make disclaimers when I speak authoritatively (and by "authoritatively" I mean with a certain tone) about something I know quite a bit about as a layperson and could therefore likely be mistaken by others as a real authority. I don't understand how someone could think that I'd do so only to underscore how much I think I know about something because, after all, allowing someone to have the mistaken impression I actually am an expert is even more impressive, isn't it?

This is especially important, as someone says above, when the community is diverse enough that it's reasonable for people to expect that someone speaking authoritatively really might be an authority.

I also do this partly as a reminder to myself. Sometimes when I know a lot about something it's easy to forget that in comparison to someone who was trained and works in a field, I don't know squat.

Finally, when I'm sufficiently more knowledgeable about a subject to recognize when someone else is speaking with an authoritative tone about that subject and yet is very wrong, I'm much more forgiving of this if they've acknowledged their limits and conceded that they could be wrong in their comment. In fact, that tells me some important things about them and I respect them more for it. It tells me they are smart enough to know there are things they don't know and that at any time their own ignorance can come up behind them and bite them in the ass. It tells me they're not going to be surprised that they were very wrong and that they care enough about the people to whom they are speaking that those people are warned of this possibility, as well.

This assumption by some that a disclaimer of limited expertise is somehow self-aggrandizing is an example of a sadly widespread armchair psychoanalysis that has a tendency, perhaps even a desire, to see the worst in other people. There's a certain kind of person who sees all humility as false humility and all kindness as self-serving. This reflects at least as much about themselves as it does other people.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:00 AM on May 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


I'm a lawyer, but since my area of practice is hopelessly niche, I can't be of any use on AskMe. Unless someone has an urgent credit derivatives question? Anyone?
posted by patricio at 2:58 AM on May 23, 2007


If a disclaimer is actually required, "IANAD" and the like look insufficient: can you expect everyone to know what they mean? If the decision came down to whether you prefaced your AskMefi answer with a disclaimer, would you be able to show that "IANYL" is sufficient?

IMHO, internet acronyms suck unless you have a physical problem that makes typing difficult. If you're a doctor handing out free advice and you're worried about losing your license, write something exact and explicit like "I am a podiatrist (foot doctor), but I am not your podiatrist. You must be examined by a podiatrist in person to determine the best treatment for your feet." and then go on to explain your wacky theory of bunion removal.
posted by pracowity at 3:54 AM on May 23, 2007


I just wanted to know if there was any real reason *I* should do it.
The only reason would be if you were concerned that advice you give could be misconstrued as being more authoritative than you intended. The only reason you should do anything is because you have a reason to. Nobody else can answer this for you.

Yes, it really is that simple.
posted by dg at 4:07 AM on May 23, 2007


After all these comments, has anyone said anything that wasn't said in the thread smackfu linked to, or in the one hermitosis himself linked to? In other words, what does this thread do for anyone?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:09 AM on May 23, 2007


kosem has a great answer to this complaint. There are a lot of reasons to assert that you aren't a lawyer or a doctor or some other kind of professional when you aren't, but even more reasons to assert that you are not the questioner's lawyer or doctor when you do have the general professional expertise, but not all of the specifics of the case.

In fact, it's the first situation (all sorts of people who don't really know what they're talking about answering all kinds of questions) that leads to the second situation in which professionals feel the need to differentiate their (better) general advice from the rest in the thread. My area of professional expertise is frequently discussed in AskMe, and the amount of unfounded and even harmful assertion parading as knowledge is appalling. The notion that differentiating my answers from some others in the threads is self-aggrandizing, when this is what I study, present on, and publish on, is ridiculous, but so would be a stance from me which assumed that because I have a lot of general knowledge and a tiny bit of specific knowledge, I am therefore qualified to act in a personally professional capacity with the questioner.

I'm surprised you couldn't figure this out.
posted by OmieWise at 4:19 AM on May 23, 2007


Thanks for this thread. I kept wondering why people were professing their love for anal sex in completely unrelated threads.

(Would anyone buy an "IANAL" t-shirt? How about a cleverly spaced "I ANAL" shirt?)
posted by Eideteker at 4:23 AM on May 23, 2007


"I, like a few others here, AL."

You Alabama? This sentence is protypical of what I see from most legal practicioners of whom I am aware. They take a simple sentiment, and, by way of blowing it up full of bombast, pomp, and/or circumstance, completely invalidate the grammar/syntax of the sentence and/or sentiment they were attempting to convey. If you'd just said: "IAAL, like a few others here, and...", you probably wouldn't have up that one cocked that one up.

Those infixes (infices?) and tmeses (tmesises?) will get you every time.
posted by Eideteker at 4:29 AM on May 23, 2007


MUCL, BMNYUCL

(Me Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, but me not your Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer)

I think kosem nailed it with the "magic words" thing -- for doctors and lawyers, giving advice is an important and crucial part of their profession, and it is important to note that the magic words have not been spoken. The other place you will commonly see these types of disclaimers is in investment/stock market discussions, where no one wants to be seen as giving incomplete or biased investment advice.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:27 AM on May 23, 2007


Cortex? Can we have a nice swing/jive "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Lawyer" rendition? Hm?
posted by taz at 6:31 AM on May 23, 2007


The thing that bugs me is when people state they are not a lawyer, and then also carefully continue on to state that they are not my lawyer.

Of course you're not. You've already established your lack of lawyerosity. In most cases, this proud and mock-formal announcement is just silly. Nobody cares if you're NOT a lawyer.


Emphatically seconded. !
posted by desuetude at 6:33 AM on May 23, 2007


Oui. Thirded. I'm not too tetchy about all this askme stuff... but that one does get me; it's like saying "I'm Not a Pilot; I'm Not a Red-Haired Pilot." Well, duh.
posted by taz at 6:39 AM on May 23, 2007


Wow, this thread really grew legs while I was asleep.

Don't question my purpose too deeply, Kerth and spiderwire, you'll run aground fast. I started this thread out of curiosity, not to complain. The AskMe thread not only didn't go into half the detail of explaining anything that this thread does-- it's also in AskMe, where no one will think to search for it. I only found it when I was previewing this thread, having searched MeTa and the wiki and the FAQ and not finding anything. My posting a rational, relevant question to MeTa is nothing that ought to arouse immediate suspicion or contempt, not even if you feel the question to be a clunker; there's already more than enough thoughtful response in this thread to validate my having started it.

The IANA_ issue is, as everyone says, an internet thing not specific to AskMe, but people here lean on it an awful lot, and I had a hunch that many people have no idea whether they are supposed to do it, but just go along and do it blindly imagining that it must be important or else no one else would be doing it. When something becomes so common (or commonly misused) on the site, there's nothing wrong with questioning why it's happening so people know why (or whether) what they're doing is worth doing.

Hopefully a lot of people will read this and then at least know why they are or aren't doing it, which is good enough for me.
posted by hermitosis at 6:44 AM on May 23, 2007


It's not part of "Internet culture", it's a paranoid American's defence against other stupid Americans' litigiousness. The only reason it's taken hold is that people don't speak up against the ridiculousness of it, and start doing it themselves thinking it must be important somehow - as it actually is for real lawyers to say "I'm not YOUR lawyer, this is not legal advice".

It'd be much easier if we all just agreed to say what we are, if it's relevant, instead of constantly saying what we're not.
posted by reklaw at 7:02 AM on May 23, 2007


Don't question my purpose too deeply, Kerth and spiderwire, you'll run aground fast.

OK, I promise not to in the future, if you'll promise to do it for me. In other words, I think a little more thought would have prevented this deja-thread.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:38 AM on May 23, 2007


See, I actually completely disagree. In fact, a little more thought in that thread would have prevented the need for this one, in which the actual application of IANA_ with regards to MetaFilter has been explored, and to which many of our actual legal eagles have contributed their thoughts.

The AskMe thread is incredibly lightweight. It's more about the tradition of using IANA_, and less about what we do here. And even so, several times people mention that it belongs in MeTa instead, and should hence be deleted.

Granted, I'm sure a few people feel the same way about this thread, but it's impossible to exhume a skeleton from the dull grey mud of MeTa without some bubbles of methane rising to the surface, so I can live with that.
posted by hermitosis at 8:36 AM on May 23, 2007


I think it's good that people post it, so you can just ignore all the legal advice from non-lawyers since they tend to be horribly wrong. "I'm not a lawyer, but it seems like..." invariably ends in tears.
posted by smackfu at 8:39 AM on May 23, 2007


PLEASE GOD MAKE IT STOP!
posted by shmegegge at 9:00 AM on May 23, 2007


Je ne suis pas une pipe
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:10 AM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Don't question my purpose too deeply, Kerth and spiderwire, you'll run aground fast... even if you feel the question to be a clunker; there's already more than enough thoughtful response in this thread to validate my having started it.

if your purpose really was as superficial as you suggest, that answers my question. i think the thread and the discussion are great, so thank you; i think that your post and subsequent questions were a bit obtuse, no offense. i recognize that you were just trying to push the discussion forward, which is why i tried to mitigate the snarkiness with that second comment.

Hopefully a lot of people will read this and then at least know why they are or aren't doing it, which is good enough for me.

we could also have threads asking "why the stupid Soviet Russia meme?" or "is there any purpose to the @[username] convention?" (answer to both questions: "to punish us") and i expect we'd get some interesting answers: people here are pretty bright.

nevertheless, i think that those questions, like the one you asked, have self-evident answers. consequently, they don't warrant MeTa threads. "people might think about this" isn't a persuasive justification to me.

but hey. it's a slow week, so, no harm no foul. i'm just reluctant to endorse "isn't this non-MeFi-specific-meme so very interesting" threads on MeTa, especially when they have perfectly decent analogues on AskMe already. as a matter of general policy, i think this is not really productive discussion.
posted by spiderwire at 9:23 AM on May 23, 2007


Papa fume une pipe. Maman pipe papa.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:33 AM on May 23, 2007


"why the stupid Soviet Russia meme?"

Whoa. Whoa, there. In Soviet Russia, Soviet Russia meme better back the fuck off you.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:43 AM on May 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


Whatever. Don't act like I roused anyone from a sound sleep or anything in order to find out what I needed to know. If you're not interested or think it's pointless, how much time you waste reading or writing is your business.

Apparently nothing is a big enough deal to discuss in MetaTalk, regardless of how often it's touted as being for this sort of thing. It's not like posting here makes red phones under bell jars ring all over the country, slow week or no.

And while I have been very deferential to make it clear that this matter isn't exactly murdering my babies, this hasn't been "isn't this non-MeFi-specific-meme so very interesting?" at all. I wanted to know if there was an actual necessity for it, and to gently point out that it was sort of distracting or irritating if not. For all I knew, there was a really important reference people were drawing from as to MetaFilter or legal policy that made it necessary or wise to use it (turns out to not be the case).

So yeah. "Meh." I get it. Now if that's all, it's a lovely spring day outside, and these yam fries aren't going to eat themselves.
posted by hermitosis at 9:45 AM on May 23, 2007


That'll teach you to post in MetaTalk.
posted by smackfu at 9:55 AM on May 23, 2007


Somewhere between "Take it to MetaTalk" and "That'll teach you to post in MetaTalk" is a great fault line in the character of this site that I don't mind building a house along... but I wouldn't want to take the subway.
posted by hermitosis at 10:02 AM on May 23, 2007


Whoa. Whoa, there. In Soviet Russia, Soviet Russia meme better back the fuck off you.

fucking. awesome.
posted by shmegegge at 10:25 AM on May 23, 2007


IANAL, and your favorite band still sucks.
posted by grateful at 10:32 AM on May 23, 2007


I know I'm late to the party here. But.

To me, IANAL and its ilk are just considerate parts of conversation. Somewhat similar to someone saying, "In my opinion," (or IMHO; whatever). Well, of course it's your opinion, because it's something you're saying. It need not be explicitly stated. But it's considered polite to say it in many situations, such as, when someone says "all fat people are lazy." Well, clearly that's just the person's opinion, but if they go on to say it's just their opinion, based on lame anecdotes from their own life, they might be cut some additional slack. Many, many posts (e-mails, etc) would come across much better to many people if conversational niceties such as that were used more often.

So. To say IANAL or whatever the context dictates you must not be is a statement of humility. It's not, "This is what will happen to you if don't bring your porch up to code and then shoot BB pellets at your neighbor's barking dog, moron, and I know you're a moron because you're asking such a moronic question," it's, "Well, I'm not degreed in this but based on my life experiences this is what I think might happen."

Extreme examples, of course. But the point is, it's just a considerate conversational device.

IMHO.

And from now on, you know that everybody is going to bold their IANA*'s.
posted by iguanapolitico at 10:59 AM on May 23, 2007


What EB said. It's especially important to issue a disclaimer if you're talking authoritatively about some subject; this is why I occasionally remind people that IANALinguist. I know a fair amount about linguistics, I did grad work in it and became for a brief period the world expert in an incredibly tiny subsector of it (and I heartily recommend everyone become the world expert in an incredibly tiny subsector of something, it's a nice feeling), but I haven't kept up with the field in several decades and would gladly defer to someone who Is A Linguist and has done actual research on whatever it is I'm going on about. Yet the fact is that I know a lot more about it than most people around here and have a lot to contribute, even if I'm not a professional. It's not the case that you're either a professional or an ignoramus.
posted by languagehat at 11:13 AM on May 23, 2007


Heh, 80 comments on the why of IANAL.
Only on Metafilter.
posted by jouke at 11:32 AM on May 23, 2007


It puts the Soviet Russia on its meme or it gets the hose again.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:50 AM on May 23, 2007


this is why I occasionally remind people that IANALinguist. I know a fair amount about linguistics, I did grad work in it and became for a brief period the world expert in an incredibly tiny subsector of it [...] It's not the case that you're either a professional or an ignoramus.

I'm not a practicing professional either, and I'm only an interested amateur when it comes to studying the notion, but..

Professionalism is about ethical responsibility and legal liability, not knowledge. It happens that the worlds leading expert in a certain thing often has professional accreditation in the general field, but that is not at all necessary.

I'd be very interested in critical views on professionalism, if anybody has articles. It has done some great things - bridge design, aviation safety boards - but professionalism dictates a certain structure to society which can be very troubling. Just one example, all these people who think the first and only step in solving any problem is to call in a professional.. Fact is, the professionals you hire are only as good as you make them, by understanding the basics, asking the right questions, holding their feet to the fire, and generally owning your own problems.
posted by Chuckles at 1:13 PM on May 23, 2007


Chuckles, you might be interested in reading Disciplined Minds. I recommend to everyone heading to grad school. The politics are quite forward, and I'm not sure I agree with all the conclusions, but I love that the author got fired for the book and then held his employers over a barrel for the firing.
posted by OmieWise at 1:31 PM on May 23, 2007


Hah, just scrolling through his site I see that he includes my review (credited to Politics and Prose Bookstore) on the left on his site.
posted by OmieWise at 1:32 PM on May 23, 2007


I'm a lawyer, but since my area of practice is hopelessly niche, I can't be of any use on AskMe. Unless someone has an urgent credit derivatives question? Anyone?

If I sell the insurance risk side of a collateralized debt obligation to a third party but a default occurs before settlement but after agreement, to whom does the interest accrue while the transaction is unwound, and who is responsible for bank notifications?

also, what should I name my cat?
posted by felix at 2:01 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


IAALBIANYLYY

I am a lawyer but I am not your lawyer ... and what does the remaining "YY" stand for?
posted by WCityMike at 2:58 PM on May 23, 2007


Yadda Yadda
posted by brain_drain at 3:01 PM on May 23, 2007


People who write IMHO are also completely fucking stupid. Yay technical jargon with no point whatsoever hurf durf !!
posted by reklaw at 3:48 PM on May 23, 2007


reklaw FTW
posted by smackfu at 3:57 PM on May 23, 2007


STFU guys
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:01 PM on May 23, 2007


I have an inner-ear infection.
posted by Dizzy at 7:23 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


STFU guys

QFT
posted by spiderwire at 8:07 PM on May 23, 2007


NO U
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:18 PM on May 23, 2007


Shit, that's totally not an acronym.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:18 PM on May 23, 2007


Nobody noticed my acronym spelled NUTSAC. I hate you guys.
posted by Sallyfur at 8:48 PM on May 23, 2007


OMGWTFR2D2BBQ
posted by spiderwire at 9:05 PM on May 23, 2007


!!!!!1!!11!!!!!shift+eleven
posted by spiderwire at 9:05 PM on May 23, 2007


.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:56 PM on May 24, 2007


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