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Launched with much fanfare late last year, USLaw.com is meant to give consumers an idea of their legal rights and obligations, to permit them to solve simple legal problems on their own, and to help them find the right lawyer if one is needed. The site, www.uslaw.com, is based in Silver Spring, Md., but aims at a nationwide audience. Its founders have taken pains not to run afoul of unauthorized-practice rules, hiring Geoffrey Hazard of the University of Pennsylvania as a consultant. A user can chat online, free of charge, with a lawyer, who of course gives legal information, not advice. The referral service is quite good: I checked domestic relations and civil rights lawyers in the District and found many appropriate names. I have two other problems, though: The site’s design is extraordinarily cluttered, and many of the capsule summaries of legal areas (Social Security, sexual harassment, immigration, and the like) seem to be taken verbatim from opaque government documents. That’s hardly friendly to the average citizen.

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