Legal Hypochondria – Friend or Foe ?

Legal Hyperchondria – Friend or FoeHave you ever developed a rash?

It has caused you a problem and you are worried sick?

What is the FIRST thing YOU DO ? A quick internet search on your iphone? Go on be honest ?

Gosh …..some rare disease.Oh no, I have all the symptoms. An interesting discussion took place about the changes in the structure of the Legal profession in my BEFPA Business ethics class at University of Glasgow with @Brianinkster and it keep popping into my head.

We have witnessed a change in the formation and structures of legal practices and perhaps the introduction of a new access point for clients when they are faced with a legal problem ought to be considered too.

If some thing goes wrong traditionally the first point of contact would be your solicitor. Perhaps you might visit your trusted family solicitor or maybe even the Citizens Advice Bureau or an organisation that could direct you to another legal body.

Times have changed. The first step for many now is their PC, iphone and Blackberry.
Someone runs into the back of your car and hey , the phones out.
Wife runs off with the man from the bank and guess what Blackberry is on supercharge and grounds for divorce are tapped in.
Speed camera flashes as you drive home from collecting the groceries and lap top is out as soon as you get home.
Google search on the screen and search terms are entered. It takes under 5 minutes.

An employer treats you in a poor and shabby way and the first thing one might do when you come home from work is open your computer and search for ; legal problem, employment law, solicitors advice.

It’s what happens ONCE they stumble across a site that intrigues me.

What happens in many cases is that they read horror stories and dash to their nearest law firm for reassurance THATS good for lawyers isn’t it ?
Maybe they will try to conduct their own legal reasearch first ( after all they have watched Ally McBEal and CSI) and when they do walk through the door of that chosen Law firm one may wonder why they even bothered because they have suddenly become an expert and turned into Petrochelli .

They have already reached their own legal opinion before they even come into your office. They have expectations because they saw it on the internet. They have not considered the jurisdictions or different legal principles but some how when they instruct you they ‘think’ that not only are you ‘petrochelli ‘ but that you are both Houdini (can get them out of any tight corner) and an expert mind reader too you know what they have based there assumptions on in the 200 sites they visited on-line.

Does this LEGAL HYPOCHONDRIA help or hinder lawyers?

It can help lawyers because it brings them to you.

Maybe its your site they have visited.

Maybe your site offered the BEST advice.

Maybe your reputation was out there because of the wonderful testimonials posted and the good ‘lawyering’ you do.

The trusted legal expert who can shepherd them to safety through the legal turmoil.

Legal hypochondria can also lead to frustration and mis-understandings about what to expect from the solicitor after all the lawyer on the internet said something very different.

At every turn the client has contradictory information to challenge your advice. Suggestions pop up at every moment.

They know what they saw on the internet and it’s not what you are telling them now.

As more and more people use the web the numbers of searches grows the problem becomes more nd more relevant to lawyers and to new lawyers who will experience this more and more in the future.

Even existing clients will check on-line for advice about their ongoing cases – checking up to see if their lawyer is getting it right.

Twitter handles over 19 Billion Twitter searches per month alone.

Google handles several million searches per day

As I join the legal profession very soon as a trainee solicitor it is something I will be very conscious of from day one.

I will remember the time I sat at my PC looking up symptoms for the strange and rare disease that actually turned out to be a freckle I had for 43 years.

Legal Hypochondria – friend or foe ?What do you think?
I welcome your comments.

Michelle L. Hynes


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