UNDERSTANDING LAW WITHOUT LEGALESE

By: Charles Bowen

USLaw.com Covers Legal Issues in Plain English





To get started, visit USLaw.com at http://www.uslaw.com



A young reporter once told me that he wanted to avoid covering anything having to do with the law. Judging from where lawyers and judges routinely appear on those perennial popularity polls that rate everyone from preachers to used-car dealers, I guess many of our readers share that attitude.



But for us, it’s a naive wish. A journalist wanting to avoid writing about the law and lawyers would be like the body saying it is tired of dealing with blood.



Law is fundamental to most of what we cover, from school boards and county commissions to the behavior of parents at Little League games to how the state chooses to tax its residents

who sell goods and services in cyberspace.



We can’t – and shouldn’t want to – avoid the law. But that doesn’t mean we have to embrace legalese. In fact, I’ll bet that most judicial critics, if pressed to elaborate on their feelings, would admit it is the often seemingly cryptic language of law and lawyers that really makes them cranky.



And until recently, the Internet – despite dozens of wide-ranging sites devoted to legislation, court decisions, and consumer law – hasn’t helped all that much in the translation department.



Now, though, a bright, intelligent site promises to leave behind complex legal terms as it discusses in plain English the laws that affect employment, family, business, property and health. It’s a site you not only can use in your own writing and editing, but also can happily share with your readers who want to do their own research.



USLaw.com, reached at http://www.uslaw.com, features a library of more than 1,500 background articles. It is all searchable, but also it is remarkably easy to browse. The introductory page is highlighted by links to nine law “channels,” including:



Employment Law, with information on job discrimination, hiring and firing issues, harassment, and employment benefits.

Real Estate Law, covering issues related to buying and selling property, mortgages, leases and contracts and landlord-tenant relations.

Family Law, featuring articles on marriage, divorce, spousal and child support, child laws, laws relating to the elderly, wills and school issues.

Financial Law, covering bankruptcy, debt and credit, taxes, personal finance, estate planning, and investments.

Health and Injury Law, with information on insurance, accidents, defective products, environmental law, and malpractice.

Crime and Courts, featuring data on criminal law, litigation, small claims court, traffic violations, and courtroom procedures.

Commercial Law, with material on home-based businesses, partnerships, corporations, patents, trademarks and copyrights, and mediation.





Other considerations for sharing news of the USLaw.com with your readership:



Its recently revamped Small Business Resource Center specializes in free legal information on various topics affecting business, from the right business structure to intellectual property and employment law. The center also offers a weekly column on business law topics, frequently asked questions, and links to relevant articles in the USLaw.com library.



The “Build a Document” section enables readers to create customized downloadable legal documents for a fee. Click either the Create icon on the main site page or the Build a Document tab at the top of the page to check it out. Prices vary, but generally run about $20 for documents such as employment contracts and residential lease agreements.



The site also has attracted some media attention for its popular “Ask a Lawyer” service, a one-on-one live chat with a licensed attorney currently online. The service, which at this writing is free, provides legal information, not legal advice. The attorney can explain legal terms and procedures, and may advise other sources of information.







Bowen writes columns, articles and books from West Virginia, and is host of the daily Internet News syndicated radio show (http://www.netnewstoday.com).

charlesbowen@compuserve.com





Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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