Lawyers Share The Most Laughable 'I'm Not A Lawyer, But…" Claims They've Ever Heard

Lawyers Share The Most Laughable 'I'm Not A Lawyer, But…" Claims They've Ever Heard
Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

Just because one may know every episode of Law & Order: SVU, or is a Dateline NBC aficionado, doesn't mean one should think they know anything about the law.

And it certainly doesn't mean one should represent themselves in court.

Redditor bigfoot1291 wanted to hear from the "sort of" legal eagles out there by asking:

"Lawyers of reddit, what's the most laughable 'I am not a lawyer, but...' claim you've ever read?"

I Declare.

As a lawyer I love seeing all of the Facebook posts telling Facebook what they do and do not consent to. It's the online equivalent of Michael Scott "declaring" bankruptcy.thekickassduke

You need help Sir.

This wasn't online, but a guy was representing himself pro se against a client of the legal clinic i worked at at the time.

She had a semi-public job doing promotion for a local pro sports team. Some dude did a brief fan interview with her at a game, and that lone interaction sparked a 5 year stalking saga (during which she got married and had kids with someone else) that culminated in the stalker making the following claim:

he wanted a paternity test for her children, because he was convinced she had paid someone to follow him, find out when he masturbates, break into his home, steal his semen, and deliver it back to her. apparently she had then impregnated herself with his kleenex semen and her two small children were actually his. i've never seen a judge looked as shocked, or as tired, as i did on the day that motion for paternity was denied. mutherofdoggos

I Rebuke You!

When I was a judicial intern I saw an arraignment where the defendant claimed the court had no power over her, because she was a sovereign citizen who did not recognize the federal or state governments.

Later learned that her sole source of income was Social Security.BAM521

Guilty & Stupid!

I once saw a defendant argue for a not guilty verdict because there was no "Mr or Mrs commonwealth" who testified.

Obviously the charges were commonwealth v defendant. He doesn't understand that. He was found guilty. The judge did not appreciate that.Super_C_Complex

Oh Reddit...


I've found that Redditors are absolutely obsessed with correcting each other with the idea that assault and battery are often confused, and that assault only ever means to put someone in fear of imminent harm. To the point where if I even point out that that is only true some times, in some places, I will be downvoted. Roughly a third of States define assault as some version of "purposely, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another." DoctorBaby

We're the Commons.

I'm a lawyer in the U.S. and for some reason people are obsessed with common law marriage. I see people on Reddit and even hear them IRL warning other people about how "You've lived with her for more than X years, you're common law married so you have to take that into account!" or "Well, we've been living in the same apartment together for X years, so we're common law married now."

Common law marriage is only a thing that can be done in a small handful of U.S. states now, and there are requirements to it. You have to hold yourself out as being married, live together, present yourselves to the world as being married, etc. You're not going to wake up one day and accidentally be "common law married."

ETA: Guys, I never claimed to be talking about the law in Canada or Australia. I'm aware that it's different in those places.SaltySolicitor

I Guess we'll see....

I had a non-lawyer try to tell me that testimony was not reliable evidence and that a judge could not rely upon it in making a factual determination. This was in the context of a small claims case I was helping my client prepare for. It was my client's word against the opposing party's, plus some photographs he was planning on introducing. I told the opposing party that "I'll guess we'll see what the judge does...." Spoiler: the judge found my client's testimony much more compelling and ruled in his favor. FRE802

Confused? Us too.

Nearly every time patents come up on reddit, people say something very wrong. Most commonly confusing patents, trademarks, and copyrights. But reddit is very anti-patent in general, so people hate on them for all sorts of misinformed reasons. Even most lawyers know very little about patent law because it is very niche and not a topic on any state bar that I'm aware of.

Also, saw a sovereign citizen represent themselves in a tax evasion case where they tried arguing something about the government only being able to tax his corporate self and no his personal self, so he had no obligation to pay taxes? I had a hard time following his arguments because it was so non-sensical.CougarOnAComet


My favorite is "if you ask an undercover officer if he is a police officer he can't legally lie to you."

Yes. Yes he can.

Had an undercover in on a deposition once and he had been wearing a wire for part of the investigation. He was asked if he was undercover by a codefendant and his response was :

"Yea, obviously, I'm here buying drugs from you guys cause I'm an undercover police officer. I have a wire hidden under my beard and everything you moron." He said it with such immense sarcasm they didn't think twice about it and sold him a trafficking amount.cawlaw84



Copyright infringement. "All you have to do is change three things."

That's called a derivative work. Still copyright infringement. What you actually have to do is not copy.sam_l_clemens

The Freemason.

My favorite: "the judge cannot determine this matter because he is a member of the freemasons, and the freemasons do not believe in the concept of private property." This case ended with the non lawyer accusing everyone of being a freemason.

The same non lawyer also ran an appeal in that case based on the fact that the judge was not a real judge, because the judge had not taken his oath of office. The non lawyer had dug up a transcript of the judge's swearing in ceremony which read judge Smith takes oath of office, when the judge took his oath, instead of the actual words of the oath.

The non lawyer referred to outdated and repealed laws from 1730, which said all oaths had to be transcribed word for word, as a basis for the fact that the judge was not a real judge.

If his interpretation was correct, I think no current judge in Australia is a 'real judge.' thatdogoninstagram

It Depends.

My answer is actually basically all of the "I am not a lawyer, but..." claims.

The funny thing about being a lawyer is that the answer is almost always "it depends." Sure, the laws generally stay the same but the outcomes are so contingent upon the facts that you can never know with certainty how something will turn out. Thus, my answer for 90+% of my clients is it depends on (who the judge is, who shows up to testify, what the witnesses say, what theme opposing counsel goes with, etc...).

More importantly, we are not allowed to guarantee results and for good reason - the simple fact of the matter is judges, juries, prosecutors, and opposing counsel can make different decisions based on identical facts and laws.

I think the only time "I am not a lawyer, but" would be appropriate is if someone is saying "I am not a lawyer, but you need to consult with an attorney." hostilecarrot


One of my clients was told by someone on the staff of the nursing home where her mother lives that if an Enduring Power of Attorney (basically a power of attorney made in contemplation of future mental incapacity that unlike most powers of attorney does not become invalid if the donor becomes incapacitated) is voided if the original staples that held the pages together are removed.

I can see a tiny grain of truth to this in that if the validity of the document was contested the fact that it had been taken apart and stapled together again might be some evidence to support that but there is no way that evidence alone would determine the issue.

And don't even get me started about people who use the term "hearsay" but don't know what it means. This has become an epidemic. Kenn1121

Be Reasonable.


My favorite was on advice for home invasion. According to the poster, you could shoot to kill anyone who comes in uninvited.

Absolutely not the case, because self defense by definition requires "reasonable force." It's more lenient in some states and even more lenient in rural areas, but it's just irresponsible to spread this kind of misinformation. Reddit

The Sovereign Citizen.

The "sovereign citizen" stuff is my favorite. "The United States is a corporation and the law of the seas applies! Just look at the fringe on that flag! I do not consent to jurisdiction!"

Runner up is "you can't show me any law that requires me to pay federal income tax!" HeartsOfDarkness

The Patenter...

I'm a recovering patent attorney who now works at a major research university doing work in autonomous vehicles, AI, and a number of other high-tech fields. The number of people who don't understand patents, particularly on reddit, is astounding.

And the number of people who comment as if they know what they are talking about is also unreal. I shouldn't be surprised by the comments alone because it's reddit, but I'm the number of upvotes that follow are mind boggling. I stop myself from submitting a response to those types of posts on a daily basis because it's just not worth my time.

Also, almost everything analyzing Mueller, Trump, impeachment, etc. on /r/politics, /r/news, or any other subreddit is almost always incomplete or incorrect on the law.workingonbeingbetter

It's just coffee....

My two favorites are when people talk about the McDonald's coffee case as an example of greedy plaintiffs taking advantage of the system or, conversely, when they say "X Company has an army of lawyers on staff to fight the case."Notsureifsirius

The Actors...

A tale from back in my public defender-ing days:

Sovereign citizens are a special kind of stupid. Percentage-wise, I don't know how many of them are true believers and how many think they've just found some clever loophole or another. At any rate, they were always the most interesting clients.

One of them was a young gent who decided to represent another buddy of his to spin his nonsense to the judge. Unfortunately, the fellow who would become my client was a regular defendant in that same courtroom—and everyone there knew he wasn't a lawyer.

When he was arrested—which is to say immediately—the judge was not swayed by his argument that he was "acting of counsel" rather than "practicing law without a license."

The operating a motor vehicle charge which would follow was only semi-related. Silentclock1



On a first appearance for a criminal matter, the defendant going pro se (representing himself). Note: he is not incarcerated and only has to check in with the court once per week over the phone on release.

I demand this case be dismissed pursuant to my fourteenth amendment right not to be deprived from liberty.

Judge: counselor, do you have a response?

Me: Without due process of law, which is why we're here for you to read Mr. Defendant his rights, Your Honor. WholeGrainMustard

You're a Dog.

"I'm not a lawyer but I'm fairly certain that I could frame a dog for murder." human_of_reddit

Oh I've framed animals before. I framed a raccoon for opening a Christmas present. And I framed a bear for eating out of the garbage. bfelification

Just Sue....


I browse /r/PublicFreakout a lot and it never fails to make me laugh when people are being filmed throwing a tantrum and they start screaming about how it's illegal and they are going to call up their lawyer and sue them. Makes me think of this video from Wonder Shozen-eDgAR-

Zip Code Please....

In general people arguing for an hour before realizing they live in different countries. not-a-bear-in-a-wig

Phoenix Wright.

Guy claimed he could lawyer himself because he played Phoenix Wright ace attorney.cacmonkey

This is similar to an Arrested Development episode. Michael is convinced he can represent his family because he played a lawyer in a play in grade school so he reads up on maritime law. It didn't go well.Jarvicious

I Know it All.

Met someone who said they knew everything about the law and was studying to be a lawyer. Turns out she was temping as a paralegal for the better part of a week. kushasorous

The Gubment!

Anything on /r/legaladvice. DO NOT GO THERE FOR ACTUAL LEGAL ADVICE. I go there to laugh because come on.

In real practice, though, we get those nutty Pro Per Plaintiffs suing for millions or billions because of some slight, or because the Gubment doesn't have jurisdiction over them as FREE MURICANS or because they're SOVEREIGN INDIVIDUALS. Coolest_Breezy

Count the Chords.

Am (legally but I quit) a corporate lawyer. Basically no one understands fair use and copyright. I keep seeing people analyzing songs and art and calling everything plagiarism and copyright infringement; I'm not talking songs, but stuff like chord progressions or character names. Just because something exists within a work doesn't make it the author's exclusive property.Vaaaaare

Separate Counsel Please....

I once had a person claim that within there was no such thing as the adversarial system and that we were just trying to inflame a contested divorce.

Should mention we live in a common law system and both parties had retained separate counsel.SweatCleansTheSuit

You're Out.

I work a lot in Real Estate law and I generally enjoy reading anything that comes up related to Landlord-Tenant laws. Generally speaking, Reddit loves to jump on the "illegal" and "don't pay" bandwagon. These are terrible pieces of advice.

I have seen plenty of people recommend solutions that would likely result in eviction. I usually hop in, politely inform the poster that laws vary from State to State and that OP should review local LL/Tenant laws.xemp1r3x


"For whatever reason, a lot of people do not understand that only the government, not private citizens or corporations, can violate your rights."

"The most obvious example is that Facebook, Twitter, etc. are well within their rights kicking Alex Jones off their platforms.

"A more complicated example involves the Fourth Amendment's search and seizure rules. The police are not allowed to unreasonably search you. There's nothing in the Constitution barring a private citizen from unreasonably searching you and handing over any evidence to the police, though." Bigcat95

Not Evidence.

"There seems to be a general misunderstanding that testimony is not evidence. For example, I see this a lot in rape cases. People will say the victim has no evidence; that it's just a he-said/she-said. What a witness says on the stand is evidence. It's just up to the trier of fact to decide whether it's credible evidence."marksy_momma

The Deflate.

"Absolutely the best IANAL arguments I saw on Reddit came during the "Deflate Gate" scandal in the NFL. For those who do not know, Tom Brady, the superstar quarterback for the very successful New England Patriots, was found to have deflated footballs in violation of league rules. That's kind of a minor thing, but it was against one of the best players in the league's history, and Brady fought it like crazy. The issue resulted in litigation in the Southern District of New York and, later, the 2d Circuit Court of Appeals."

"Patriots fans vociferously defended Brady and, frankly, I would expect nothing less. But some of the legal arguments Patriots fans would make were astounding. It was some time ago, so I do not recall specifics, but it was as if every Patriots fan on Reddit suddenly got a law degree and had years of experience practicing law."

"What I do remember, though, was their fans would often re-hash the legal arguments Brady's (very talented) attorneys made in court filings as if they were gospel. But attorneys are paid to be persuasive -- everything we write seems compelling at first blush. But even if we write it authoritatively, it could certainly be wrong and lose. And that's ultimately what happened to Brady. Although, credit to his attorneys, he had some success at the trial court level, which was mind-boggling to me. The 2d Circuit corrected that." Guhonda

Car Assault.

"If someone touches your car, it's technically assault and you're allowed to run them over in self defense." gritwoodser

That's New.

"This random guy at the deli told me, "I'm not a lawyer but I know for a fact my baby mama ain't gonna get a dime of this child support money!" I asked him why he thought that and he said it was because she owed back taxes with the IRS and they were going to garnish the child support payments to pay it off. All I responded with was "wow that's new!" SmartyLox


"I'm in real estate, Over the last year or two I've seen a lot of people try to quote the law as if they are lawyers. No Karen, misinterpreting your lease contract and the law supporting it does not mean you get to do what ever you want. "Mitigate damages" is not a get out of jail free card."GeroVeritas

The law is no laughing matter, but many of these are hilarious!

Do you have similar experiences to share? Let us know in the comments below.

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