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Perhaps I shouldn't have included the caveat about legal advice in my answer to the question 'Provider is “cheating”, but I don't want to disclose how I found out'. Here's the paragaph in question:

We don't normally provide legal advice here, and you should definitely know that I am not a lawyer and this shouldn't be construed as legal advice. That said, if a law suit were to develop over this, you might need that junior programmer as a witness. However, as an employee of the provider, the programmer may not repeat in court what they told you. You might investigate hiring him or her yourself, or having your client hire them; of course, if that were to happen, the other side would try to impugn the testimony of someone who is now your (or your client's) employee.

IMO, my last paragraph isn't really the kind of legal advice one would get from an attorney, just some "street smarts" for going to trial, as well as an idea about protecting the source. However, it is attracting comments complaining that it's legal advice and thus off topic. If the consensus of the community is that this goes outside the scope of the site, I'll delete the paragraph.

Update: That paragraph was modified to read:

If you really want to protect the junior programmer and have a slot he could fill, you could hire him yourself, or your client could hire him. This way he's sure to avoid being fired by the service provider. Also, in case the service provider tries to sue your client for breach of contract, you're sure to have him around as a witness.

  • Yes, I think you strayed over the borderline a bit here. You are positing how a lawsuit would proceed, and offering suggestions on legal tactics, IMHO. – Joe Strazzere Mar 3 '16 at 18:44
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I don't think that's legal advice. And even if it were, I don't think it's a problem if answers veer into legal advice. We don't accept questions that ask for legal advice, but we're talking about an answer here.

Our community is sometimes too quick to jump on anything that contains the word "law" or "legal". Everybody knows, or reasonably ought to know, that you are still responsible for applying your own due diligence before acting on anything you read here. Stop treating any reference to a legal situation as if it's evil that must be eradicated, please.

All that said, if it were my answer I'd probably trim that down some and just point out that if you do end up in a lawsuit, a witness still working for your ex-employer might be constrained in what he can testify to. The important thing is to point out the issue; if he's going to court I hope he has a lawyer and so he can discuss the matter with that lawyer.

  • 1
    IMHO, if you aren't a lawyer, it's always a mistake to provide legal advice (for the same reason most of us shouldn't be providing medical advice). We don't let people write questions asking for legal advice. And even if they haven't asked for it, I don't see how providing legal advice in an answer is any better. (I don't make the rules here, I just attempt to understand and follow them.) – Joe Strazzere Mar 3 '16 at 19:02
  • If you aren't a lawyer you shouldn't be dispensing legal advice (arguably the same for managers, recruiters, programmers, etc), but just because somebody says something that sounds kind of like it might be in the space of one of those areas doesn't make it something that needs to be removed. And if a lawyer is so foolish as to actually give legal advice on the Internet that's his problem, and we should evaluate it based on its usefulness, not on its formulation. This is my opinion (not speaking with mod authority). And we all make the rules here, together, aside from SE givens. – Monica Cellio Mar 3 '16 at 20:24
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Yes. You're setting up a hypothetical courtroom scenario complete with advice on protecting/persuading a witness.

While well-intended, there's really no need to provide this kind of advice on this site. Legal advice, by its very nature, is dangerously incomplete and liable to do more harm than good in complex situations.

If you want to mention it at all, I'd just state "If lawyers get involved you may need to disclose your source's identity and he may or may not confirm what he told you." That should get your point across.

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I think this is one of those cases where intent is a bit jumbled. So there's a comment that says:

I recommend ditching that last paragraph. Despite the disclaimer, it certainly comes off as legal advice, and it doesn't seem practical based on the info OP gave. I think your answer is just fine without it.

It has 11 upvotes. You assume this means people are agreeing with "it certainly comes off as legal advice" when I'd wager that most people are actually agreeing with "I recommend ditching that last paragraph." You only have two downvotes, and the rest of the answer is good, the paragraph in question just doesn't really relate to the question (and reads really awkwardly).

Talking about court is irrelevant to the question

The question clearly states:

If it matters, my client would not file a lawsuit, but certainly would dump that provider, and my client is one of their most important customers.

So when you start talking about what happens in court, it seems to be totally irrelevant to the concerns in the question (specifically, how to balance the job of a helpful employee vs. their clients needs).

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

The reason that the "legal advice" flag went off in my head was because you kind of suggested that it should (emphasis mine):

We don't normally provide legal advice here, and you should definitely know that I am not a lawyer and this shouldn't be construed as legal advice. That said...

Now I don't think this is really legal advice, but I do think it is really awkward given the context of the question and the disclaimer.

So if it were my answer, I'd delete that paragraph for the sole reason that it makes the entire answer less awesome than it could otherwise be, and not worry so much about the legal advice angle.

  • Thanks for the feedback. Regarding the "my client would not file a lawsuit" bit: My thinking about this was that the service provider could sue for breach of contract. – GreenMatt Mar 8 '16 at 14:10
  • @GreenMatt and that's where we really are getting in to dangerous legal waters, because none of us know what the contract says/what the status of the contract currently is. If you have some reason to think this could get sticky, you may want to suggest "contact an attorney" as part of your answer, but if it isn't to the point where it merits talking to a real lawyer, it probably isn't worth the conjecture in the answer, no? – jmac Mar 8 '16 at 14:54
  • The answer has been updated. – GreenMatt Mar 8 '16 at 15:09

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