Articles Tagged with LegalZoom

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In August, I wrote about the Consumer Reports evaluation of online do-it-yourself legal sites (Legal DIY sites no match for a pro). This week, Wall Street Journal reporter Jennifer Smith writes on “No-Frill Legal Services Grow,” addressing many of the same DIY websites.

The impetus for the article is the lawsuit filed last month by against up-and-coming rival Rocket Lawyer. It is ironic that these entities are now fighting over what is and is not “free” in terms of form filing and other stuff where you apparently either don’t need a lawyer, or perhaps just need one that works for them at really cheap rates. Interesting side note: Both LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer have real lawyers doing the fighting–I don’t think they are using their own self service offerings.

The debate often revolves around the potential “unauthorized practice of law.” Regardless of the semantics involved, the consumer is thinking this is a cost-effective way to resolve a legal issue. It is not like this business is new. Strip malls stores (Divorce! Bankruptcy! Wills!) have provided similar services for decades. Storefronts such as “We the People” have largely evaporated (thanks in part to the Internet and in part to State Bar issues with unauthorized practice). In recent years, the online offerings have changed the language in describing offerings to something akin to providing documents and/or providing a lawyer somewhere that can answer questions.

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In thumbing through the September 2012 issue of Consumer Reports, my “thumbing” came to a halt, somewhere between best values on cars (my Toyota Highlander ranked high, as did my wife’s Camry) and televisions (I could have done better), when the monthly money column headline “Legal DIY sites no match for a pro” stopped me in my tracks.

Would CR tell its readership that the do-it-yourself web sites for legal information (not “advice”, because we know they can’t do that) would suffice when it comes to the “simple”–a will, a trademark, forming an LLC, getting a divorce, a real estate lease. Of course, if you are an IP attorney, a real estate lawyer, a family law attorney–you would (and should) take offense at the idea that your practice can be replaced by a cyber-lawyer (and I don’t mean a lawyer doing cyberlaw, I mean an automated machine). And thankfully for most of us, CR agrees. You probably need a lawyer to review and/or draft anything that goes beyond the extremely mundane.legalzoom_logo_site_upper_left.gif

The article leads by saying that for a fraction of what you’d pay a lawyer, websites such as LegalZoom, Nolo and Rocket Lawyer can help you create your own will, power of attorney, etc. ..and those sites are full of pleased customers that have avoided dreaded attorney fees from the comfort of a desktop.