Legal Information vs. Legal Advice

Librarians can only provide legal information not legal advice.

“I spent many years working in public libraries. I always followed a simple rule: If someone else had a professional license involving a subject, I provided only a resource concerning the subject. I selected the resource which I thought might help. I provided no advice or interpretation. The most common subjects involved were law, medicine, or taxes.”

– Library Survey Respondent

DO Provide Legal Information

  • Do promote effective and open access to legal information
  • Do provide federal and state resources on court procedures, court rules, cases and statutes
  • Do provide access to legal forms and instructions
  • Do direct patrons to legal treatises, dictionaries
    or legal encyclopedias for explanations
  • Do provide resources and referrals (including websites)
  • Do allow users to come to their own conclusions

DO NOT Provide Legal Advice

  • Do not become invested in the case outcome  
  • Do not fill out legal forms or tell patrons how to fill them out
  • Do not interpret primary sources of law
  • Do not recommend a specific lawyer
  • Do not conduct legal research for a patron
  • Do not suggest a legal course of action


Useful Language for Redirecting Patrons

  • “I cannot give legal advice, but I can point you to helpful legal information.”
  • “This may be a good place to start.”
  • “I’m a librarian, not a lawyer, so I can’t interpret for you, but this might be helpful.”
  • “Here’s a source for legal forms; please check the instructions to see if these forms apply to your specific case.”
  • “If you have additional questions you may consider contacting an attorney, legal aid service or local public access law library; I can give you some information about referrals.”

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