A great resource

December 5th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Jono Galuszka at Stuff reports:

A former Palmerston North Girls’ High School pupil has poured her passion for law into a website for people seeking free .

, who is now a solicitor for Russell McVeagh in Wellington, won an AMP scholarship earlier this year to launch LawSpot.org.nz.

The non-profit website allows New Zealanders to post legal questions and receive free answers from volunteer lawyers.

A database of answers is then listed on the website, under certain law categories, so people can look at it and save time instead of waiting for a reply.

Ms Shino said the idea for the website came about after she volunteered at the Wellington Community Law Centre, and saw how technology could help it and other law centres handle clients better.

“A lot of the questions [volunteers] get are the same or very similar questions, with quite a lot around employment law to tenancy disputes.

“Instead of spending half an hour answering the same questions, people can have a look in a second.”

A web model also gave flexibility to fulltime lawyers who still wanted to volunteer, she said.

“They can answer these from home, or sometimes [at law centres] there isn’t a line out the door, so they can answer online questions then.”

This is a great initiative. I’ve had a look at the website and already some good Q+A there.  Some examples:

  • Can I terminate a fixed term contract with a gym that has been sold?
  • What is the liability of a petrol station when one of its attendants damages the engine of a car?
  • Can I remove someone else’s property from my house after they have failed to remove it themselves?
  • Can employers discriminate against you based on having tattoos?
  • A tree on my neighbour’s property is stopping the sun coming onto my property during the day. Can I make him cut it down, or do it myself?
  • Can a prospective employer ask me if I have ever laid a personal grievance against an employer?

Over time this could become a hugely valuable resource. I also like how it makes it easy for lawyers to provide answers. You could get senior partners down to law clerks providing advice. Of course it is generic advice, and you may need to get specific advice on a specific situation. But for many people, just the generic advice will be very useful.

 

Tags: ,

11 Responses to “A great resource”

  1. Viking2 (11,672 comments) says:

    Great idea and helpful to Citizens Advice people. At least the advice should become consistent i.e. if the $200 an hour lawyers allow it too and don’t get pissed at the free advice.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  2. anonymouse (705 comments) says:

    While this resource is great, it really needs to coordinate with the existing resources out there, I mean the existing community law centres have their community law manual on line at http://www.communitylaw.org.nz/

    So it would be good to get all of the resources linked up, rather than duplicating each other,

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  3. LawSpot (2 comments) says:

    Thanks for the article, David. We’re really excited about our prospects for the future. As you’ll see (http://www.lawspot.org.nz/how-it-works), all our answers are supervised by Community Law before they’re published, and the Community Law Manual is one of the key sources our lawyer volunteers refer to in their answers! Eg http://www.lawspot.org.nz/criminal-law/how-do-i-get-a-legal-advocate-for-someone-under-18-years-of-age . This ensures we get consistency across questions and that we’re not duplicating effort. In fact answers on LawSpot can be used to update the Manual with most recent content and new topics not currently covered. All in all we’re very optimistic about LawSpot’s future!

    Maya and the LawSpot Team

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  4. gazzmaniac (2,306 comments) says:

    They need something like this in every state of Australia.
    It is relatively easy to find free legal advice in New Zealand, not so in Queensland. They make the law complicated so you think you need a lawyer to do anything. And lawyers are thieving pricks who only want to rape your wallet and bank account.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  5. Rex Widerstrom (5,013 comments) says:

    gazzmaniac suggests:

    They need something like this in every state of Australia.

    Absolutely. An incredibly good project and congratulations to Maya and her team on getting it up and running. I have to admit I’m surprised that the legal profession are letting this happen… many (though by no means all) are quick to swoop on anything which might undermine their “right” to, as gazzmaniac puts it “rape your wallet and bank account”.

    It is relatively easy to find free legal advice in New Zealand, not so in Queensland.

    Nor WA, nor AFAIK any other state or territory. Patch protection is rife, and crippling fees – I recently parted with $6,000 for a simple traffic matter, soundly beat the police and got $1,800 in costs – are rife. I suspect any attempt to mirror Maya’s initiative here would be savaged by the legal profession, though I’d be delighted to be proved wrong.

    They make the law complicated so you think you need a lawyer to do anything.

    And most times it’s not. I find the biggest misunderstanding people have about the law is that they approach the lower courts on minor matters expecting fairness, common sense and natural justice to prevail when none of them do. If you’re on trial facing a long prison sentence you’ll get all the bells and whistles of justice, but stand up in the Magistrates’ Court and try to argue that you’re innocent and you’ll find that effectively the burden of proof is reversed – a parking or speeding ticket, for instance, is held to be incontrovertible evidence of your guilt unless you can somehow prove your innocence.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  6. Redbaiter (10,398 comments) says:

    LawSpot does not answer questions about conveyancing or property leasing (except residential tenancies), or questions from landlords, or from business ventures and employers. This is because LawSpot is aimed at addressing unmet legal need in the community.

    LawSpot will only provide very basic information in relation to questions about wills, estates, property relationship agreements, powers of attorney and enduring powers of attorney. This is because LawSpot cannot assist with reviewing or drafting any documents in these areas due to the online Q&A format.

    Just the usual commie bullshit.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  7. Chris2 (775 comments) says:

    Lawspot – have you considered allowing comments or questions to be added to the online answers?

    In the following page there is reference to the Clean Slate Act “wiping’ (sic) drink drive convictions, but I am not certain this is correct. I think drink drive convictions do not ever become concealed.

    http://lawspot.org.nz/criminal-law/i-have-a-drink-driving-conviction-does-this-prevent-me-from-being

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  8. RRM (10,099 comments) says:

    Just the usual commie bullshit.

    Really, baiter? :neutral:

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  9. aitkenmike (95 comments) says:

    Of course RRM, the only way to fair way to apportion who gets free legal advice in a free-market system is to give it to those who can pay the most for the said free advice. Anything else is ‘commie bullshit’

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  10. gazzmaniac (2,306 comments) says:

    Rex – you’re quite right, more often than not the law is fairly simple. You’ve just got to find out what you have to do and it’s not well publicised.
    I think that a decent civics and law course at high school would be way more advantageous than bullshit like Shakespeare.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  11. LawSpot (2 comments) says:

    Hi Chris

    My understanding is that drink driving convictions can be concealed under the Clean Slate Act provided it did not result in disqualification (s 7 Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004). The important point (from the perspective of the asker) is however that despite the clean slate scheme, you must disclose your criminal record (including drink driving convictions) when applying for a visa to enter another country.

    We considered making it possible to comment on online answer pages. We decided not to implement this for the time being as we want our beta launch of the site to be as clean and simple as possible – we don’t want members of the public to feel they also have to trawl through other comments to get a good sense of the law (and general comments would not necessarily be from those legally qualified). Also we have a peer reviewing stage built into the process (prior to the Community Law supervision stage), so we feel confident that our answers represent a considered view of the law and incorporate different perspectives. At the moment we are focused on getting our Q+A process just right before we think of adding extra functionality.

    Appreciate your comments!
    Maya and the LawSpot Team

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote