Canadian Journal of Law and Technology


social media, crowdsourcing legal research, crowdsourcing legal advice, reddit


Social media has become ubiquitous in the daily lives of Canadians. Beyond connecting with friends and family, people also turn to social media to find information and seek advice on any number of topics, be it home cooking, workout routines, or automobile purchases. Indeed, social media is a flexible vehicle that can be leveraged for communication on almost any topic. It is not surprising, therefore, that individuals are also turning to social media to help resolve their legal problems. Even a cursory examination of social media will reveal that it is not uncommon for individuals who are experiencing legal difficulties to post about their problems online and to solicit information and advice on how to deal with them. This crowdsourcing of legal services raises numerous issues that warrant further examination. From a professional and regulatory perspective, there are legitimate concerns about the quality of information and advice that is provided. Far from being benign, there is the potential for serious legal harm should one act upon bad information or advice. Yet, there is also an ongoing and pressing access to civil justice crisis wherein professional legal services are simply beyond the reach of most people. In such a context, social media presents a potential path to justice for those who would otherwise have no access to legal assistance. The inherent tension between these two concerns, coupled with the fact that social media is firmly embedded within society, demands that the legal community examine this phenomenon so that it can respond to it appropriately.

This article presents the findings of a study examining the crowdsourcing of legal research and legal advice and is intended to provide an empirical foundation that can inform future discussions on how to respond to, integrate, or regulate crowdsourced legal services. Specifically, this article examines conversations posted to the social media platform called Reddit to assess whether the crowdsourcing of legal services can be a viable access to civil justice solution. Reddit is a moderated news aggregator wherein people can post content such as questions, comments, pictures, videos, or links to third party sites. Users will then comment on the posted content, which in turn generates additional comments, thus creating a vibrant discourse about the particular subject. Reddit is an ideal platform for the study of crowdsourced legal services because it is, in essence, a public forum that is used by people to express their views and opinions and thus allows an analysis of how people understand, struggle with, and respond to their problems. While conversations posted to Reddit about legal problems can be seen as a troubling indicator of unmet legal needs, they also present an opportunity to better understand the nature and scope of those needs. That understanding can then be incorporated into the access to civil justice dialogue.