Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Consequences and Problems of LegalZoom

What Exactly is LegalZoom?

 A common misconception about LegalZoom is that the company is made up of lawyers who provide legal advice on various legal issues.  In reality, the people who fill out your documents are called Legal Document Assistants (LDA's).  The requirements for this title is that you have high school diploma and two years of education or experience somehow in the legal field.  The company walks a fine line between offering legal services but not engaging in the unlawful practice of law.  In very small print at the bottom of the page, which took me awhile to find, it states the company's disclaimer:
"Communications between you and LegalZoom are protected by our Privacy Policy but not by the attorney-client privilege or as work product. LegalZoom provides access to independent attorneys and self-help services at your specific direction. We are not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. We cannot provide any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies."
What are the Problems with LegalZoom?

Because of the confusion of what exactly LegalZoom provides there have been several lawsuits against them for the unlawful practice of law.  There are also several lawsuits by individuals against the company for flawed documents, however, unlike attorney's, the standards they face for incompetent work is lower.  The primary way that LegalZoom tries to avoid complaints of unlawfully practicing law is by gathering generic and simple data from people and placing that information into their legal document.  This ensures that anything requiring legal advice or questions can be avoided.  The LDA's who fill in the documents cannot give opinions on whether people are following a sound legal strategy or if their decisions make legal sense.  In addition, there have been reported issues of LegalZoom not keeping up with the current laws of your state.

Is there a Middle Ground?

 There are two common arguments in favor of LegalZoom:  the first being that they fill a void for the lower middle class or low income who cannot afford an attorney and that attorney's charge too much for their services.  Assuming that the legal documents created by LegalZoom are not flawed, I would agree that some form of legal document such as a Will would be better than nothing.  Also, there are some attorney's that may have much higher rates for their legal services, compared to LegalZoom.  The reason that I created my website is to offer a middle ground where you get the detailed analysis and review that an attorney provides without the high costs.  I do this by offering my services through an online format where I send you a detailed questionnaire and give you my recommendation of what documents you need and how to structure them.  My services are also limited to the states of Washington and New York where I can keep well informed of the laws specific to those states.  Additionally, unlike a large company, I can get to know my clients at more of a personal level in order to best reach their objectives in life.  Please let me know if you would be interested in my services.

Luke Larson, Attorney & Counselor at Law

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